A big fight is simmering over a bigger pot of county money

It’s wonky, it’s obscure, and it’s becoming a deal.

As San Diego County works on finalizing next year’s budget, a nearly $2 billion fund and how it should or shouldn’t be spent has become one of the most contentious matters in county fiscal policy.

At a recent hearing on the $5.69 billion proposed budget people filled four overflow rooms to give moral support as others appeared before supervisors to make 90-second arguments for how they think public money should be spent.

“Loosen up those purse strings,” Tracy Carter, president of SEIU Local 221, the union that represents county workers. She was one of 107 people who signed up to testify, many of which wanted the county to put a part of the $2 billion fund in next year’s budget.

But that may just be a warm-up.

Plans for that money will also likely be fought over in next year’s county supervisor elections, as term limits force longtime incumbents Bill Horn and Ron Roberts out of office. Both began serving on the board when the county was on the verge of bankruptcy and have, with two other long-term colleagues, favored a tightfisted approach with county money, setting a policy to not spend one-time funds on recurring expenses, using cash rather than interest-bearing bonds to pay for capital projects, and having a hearty financial reserve.

 

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