- New York City 02/13/2014 by Linda Perry (WBAI News)
Mayor Bill de Blasio delivering his preliminary budget. City Hall, February 12, 2014
NYC's mayor presented a preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2015 at City Hall. It's a $73.9 billion budget. He emphasized progressive change for New Yorkers through being both fiscally responsible and economically progressive. "This may sound counterintuitive to some, but we need a balanced budget and a strong and stable government to facilitate our fight against inequality. Because being fiscally responsible is what allows us to be a healthy functioning government that is better positioned to serve the people’s needs and build a pathway to equality."
Giving a financial overview, the mayor stressed how the gridlock in Washington is causing trouble here at home. A $10 billion healthcare waiver has been pending for over a year. To show the need for that waiver, there was a slide with a large list of hospitals closed during the Bloomberg years, then a list of those which are now threatened. "Interfaith Medical Center, Downstate, Long Island College Hospital, Brookdale, Brooklyn Hospital Center, St. John’s Hospital Center – the only hospital remaining in the Rockaways – Wyckoff Medical Center, and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. All in distress."
De Blasio said federal funds would be a key element in restructuring distressed local healthcare. Washington, he said, is also shortchanging the city in terms of Sandy relief dollars. New York City needs $7.8 billion for rebuilding, infrastructure and resiliency. It is getting less than half of that from the federal government. In addition, federal support for food stamps has been reduced for 1 million NYC households in need and it cut millions for education, social services, housing and the criminal justice system.
New York State also owes the city. The mayor said it hasn’t kept up with its obligations to fund New York City schools. Pointing out how much help the education system here in the city needs, he put up a slide which showed only one in four high school seniors are ready for college. Referring to the deal in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit de Blasio said, "The Court of Appeals’ decision in the last decade made abundantly clear the obligation of the state of New York and if you take that formula and you extrapolate it to this year, it would it be $2.7 billion per year owed to the city of New York by the state."
Even though federal and state funding provide fiscal challenges, NYC has a surplus and de Blasio put Bloomberg cuts which don't reflect his agenda back into the budget. He will restore programs for runaway and homeless youth, cap rent contributions for those with HIV and AIDS, fund 20 fire companies slated for closure year after year, and restore $1 billion to the city's Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund.
As well, he put $600 million into general reserve funds over the coming years. These funds could be used to deal with the city's open labor contracts, but the mayor refused to show his hand and offer any specifics about settling the 152 open labor contracts. "The focus now is on moving the negotiations forward in a very productive way, a very private way, and a very respectful way, which I don’t think was done in the past, and I think that’s part of the reason why there wasn’t progress."
Some contracts have been open for a very long time. The contract with custodians, Local 891, has been open since 2008. In keeping with his campaign pledge to improve public housing, the mayor restated his intention to create 200,000 unit of affordable housing in the next decade. In addition he said NYCHA will no longer pay the NYPD to police public housing. It will use the rest of this year’s payment, $52.5 million, for repairs, to reduce the amount of time to complete work orders and to create an independent inspection unit.
With more winter storms approaching, the mayor added funds into the sanitation department to deal with snow and winter storms. The preliminary budget will turn into an executive budget in May. Along with the city council the administration will have a final budget by July 1st. There's a note of relief for various groups who protest on the steps of city hall. The mayor says he will stop the Kabuki theater, the budget dance that happens each year.