Bloomberg's Budget and Beyond

Friday, February 18, 2011


Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC reporter Bob Hennelly looks at Mayor Bloomberg's proposed city budget, and talks about the history and future of New York City budget negotiations.

For the first time in years, New York City's financial situation seems to be on the upswing. The mayor laid out a budget plan on Thursday that's about the same size as last year — $65.6 billion for the next fiscal year — but this time, $9.9 billion of it will come from New York City, an increase of twelve percent from last year. While the city is closer to standing on its own, the news is not all good. The mayor outlined several tough cuts to education and other areas. 

WNYC's Bob Hennelly said of the list of winners and losers in the budget, “it’s a longer list of losers.”

Budgeting is — an old sage once told me a question of managing expectations. And in a household, it’s the same way, where, if you tell people, ‘you know, things are going to be really tight,' you get people in a certain mindset where they accept collective sacrifice. If you say ‘gosh, I‘ve got a big check coming, honey, let’s hit the town!’ and then you say ‘hey you know what, I came up short’, there’s sadness. So what the mayor has done, masterfully — and he’s had practice at it now in his third term — is manage expectations appropriately.

In reality, he says, people in the most fragile situations will have it tough as a result of these cuts, especially working parents who rely on subsidized child care. 

Working parents, who have a job and need that subsidized daycare in order to be able to go to work, they might as well hand in their pink slips now.

Senior center closings will also impact working people who depend on the service to care for their elderly parents during daytime hours, Hennelly said.

When you eliminate one-third of those senior centers, you’re basically saying, 'you know what?  You’re going to stay home with your mother and get to know her better and play mah-jongg.'

No cavalry will be coming from Washington to the rescue, Hennelly said, and the state, embroiled in their own fiscal mess, is unlikely to be able to help. In addition, the current political situation in Washington with Republicans in charge of the House means no stimulus will likely be forthcoming to ameliorate the cuts.

Hennelly said the city’s current budget situation dates back to the seventies, when the city's fiscal crisis led it to give up sovereignty over things like mass transit and City University. The city also lost the ability to negotiate contracts. Hennelly said that renewed control over contracts may be part of what Bloomberg plans to leave as his legacy as mayor.

Mayor Bloomberg’s point.. was that we have evolved, this culture has changed… in terms of accountability. So [New York City]'s managed well, in terms of its finances… in terms of its accountability and its ability to balance it’s books. It’s doing better than the state is, so is it not time to renegotiate that social contract between Albany and the city? That’s why [the mayor]’s talking about self-determination for the city… because contracts that the city is going to pay for with its workers are resolved up in Albany. That doesn’t make sense.

But the mayor's approach certainly has its detractors. Brooklyn City Councilmember Brad Lander (D-39) had this to say:

I was surprised to hear the mayor call it ‘good news.’ I agree with the mayor that the city... has acted prudently in the past, that decisions made in the better times to put money away have cushioned the recession and that we’ve made a lot of tough decisions…. But how you can call it good news to propose to lay off 4,500 teachers, eliminate over 16,000 child care slots for low-income working families who need those slots to go to work, to close 100 senior centers — more than a third of them in total, to continue major cuts to libraries and parks, to discontinue vouchers that help people get out of homeless shelters? That’s not good news.

Specifically Lander wants to see the renewal of the personal income tax surcharge, which hits the wealthiest households in New York State and brings in between $4 and $5 billion annually. The surcharge is due to expire at the end of the year, but Lander thinks a continuation would be preferable to laying off teachers. 

Lander agreed that the recovery of Wall Street has been good for New York City from a revenue point of view, but he pointed out that the financial collapse was also largely generated there. He would like the city to diversify its economy more, with greater investment in blue-collar and green jobs, though he is pleased that tourism and even real estate are now doing relatively well. 

Those are the assets New York has. That’s also why we have to invest in keeping them in place, that’s why investing in the future — investing in education and child care and in our capital needs. That’s what got New York City through this recession, is by being a place people wanted to be, businesses wanted to be, and I think it’s a mistake to under-invest in them for the future.


Listen to Bob Hennelly on The Brian Lehrer Show:


Listen to City Councilmember Brad Lander on The Brian Lehrer Show:




More in:

Comments [41]

1. Can anyone give a dollar amount for the yearly tax receipts expected to be generated from the "soak-the-rich-tax" that seems to be Councilmember Lander's silver bullet solution to the dire financial circumstance we find ourselves in?

2. How many daycare slots could be subsidized by the money now going to the legal representation for council president Quinn and her cronies being investigated by the U.S. assistant attorney general in connection with the apparent embezzlement of public funds?

I think its time for a cup of tea.

Feb. 19 2011 09:03 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ amalgam

Finally, with respect to Teachers and Teacher's Unions specifically, their arguments are so pathetic. We throw Billions at this problem, to the tune of 30 to 60k per teacher just from the FEDS in the 2009 ARRA bill! All this in a country with an average income of around 60K and we have a public education system that is routinely ranked as the worst in the western world. The teachers claim that it is the fault of "society" and "poverty" and the "culture" .... and on and on. Meanwhile kids in China and India, growing up without indoor plumbing and learning with ZERO resources turn out students better prepared for college than those in any public school in the USA.

So I say OK then, if all we can hope for is for that our teachers baby sit these kids until they're 18 then we don't need to pay them six figures for those services, with the summer off to boot. 25-55K max should do quite nicely.

Feb. 18 2011 05:00 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

OK, good enough but in the case of public sector unions the Employers ARE the public at large - the taxpayers, i.e. everyone BUT the Public Union members themselves! The Republicans want to destroy the unions for political reasons, sure, but in this case they are doing us all a favor, and my reasons for thinking that have already been laid out.

Globalization is the real reason for our economic malaise and "New Deal" type programs and solutions are simply not effective any longer. We are a post industrial economy with a relatively high standard of living, even among the poor. The New Deal was largely a failure until industry mobilized for WW2, and the prosperity that followed was a result of our annihilating (literally) most of our industrial rivals.

The Left needs to stop feeding these union monsters and funding ineffective social programs paid for with taxpayer money. The Right needs to accept a more progressive tax structure that remedies the monstrous income inequality in this country and both parties need to work together to demilitarize the permanent war economy. Those are my stated aims, if the Republicans can accomplish one of them I will be put in the awkward position of rooting for them, for the time being.

Feb. 18 2011 04:42 PM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ Mr. Bad - Fair enough if you're not far right on the spectrum.

What it comes down to is that all unions are similar, even though there are distinctions between public-private and even industry (service workers-state beuraecrats-teachers- teamsters, etc.). The bottom line is that their rationale for being is the same: to gain benefits for their membership against the wishes and demands of employers. Period.

Is the Democratic Party entirely on their side and vice versa? Yes. Do they support each other? Yes. Will the same relationship and expectations of the past go forward into the future, especially considering economic globalization and economic restructuring? Doubtful.

So it's true that Democrats largely support unions and union activities both bad (some payoffs) and, largely, good (work necessary to conduct increasingly complex governmental-social systems).

It's also true that the GOP, especially in its current, radical, right wing/liberatarian Tea Party form, will pretty much stop at nothing to destroy unions and their ability to function in order to recreate a new social contract that opposed to the one established over the past 80-90 years.

In a contentious, democratic society that is the U.S., every single minute detail must be fought over, including wages and workers rights, so I'm sticking with public sector unions in most cases - as with all unions - against the return to historical status quo of employer dominance over its employees.

Feb. 18 2011 03:50 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

You've got a fair point when you ask what bearing my opinions on Public vs. Private sector employee rights have on the whole union debate, I guess I just threw that in to show I'm not "far right" as you had characterized my arguments as being in a prior post.

I do however have to again disagree when you write that public sector union contracts "weren't handed to them by the Leftwing Big Government Fairy". IMO, that is exactly the state of affairs. Wisconsin is again a prime example - a Republican Governor and legislature attacked the Teacher's Union first chance they got - they know most of those teachers will support the Dems in any election, with both votes and money. Nothing to lose, only gain. Would a Dem governor and legislature have tried to end collective bargaining? Probably not. Christie is trying to end teacher tenure in NJ - would a Dem governor have ever ventured that? Again, probably not. I have no connections to any public sector unions other than friends who are employed in the public sector but I have worked extensively with private sector unions (SEIU) and they are essentially Democratic party owned and operated, top to bottom, and the quid pro quo is money for votes and vice versa.

I really doubt it's that much different in public sector unions. There is a reason Obama wrote a big check to the unions in the 2009 Stimulus Bill. 60 Billion of the 100 billion for education went just for teacher salaries. 4 billion for state and local law enforcement. I won't pretend to know where the 105 billion infrastructure went but I'm sure plenty of construction unions had their nose in that trough.

Feb. 18 2011 02:23 PM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ Mr. Bad - So if you agree that private sector workers are owed the same due process rights that public sector workers have - which is only fair and something we both agree with - then what bearing does that have on whether public sector unions are banned or not? Again, it comes back to my point that public sector unions fought and negotiated for those terms, they weren't handed to them by the Leftwing Big Government Fairy.

My question on "whose authority" was mainly rhetorical - since the government is given authority to create most any law if left unchecked - and following the trope of employers rights as de facto (and normally de jure) greater than the right of the employee.

That is why, unions everywhere and on all counts, came into existence so that they might counterbalance that natural "property interest" strength of the employer.

That is also why the unions and their supporters are using their right to assemble and speak to foul up the power play in Gov. Walker's right wing radicalism and departure from precedent (not that it matters).

Looks like all sides are just using their constitutional rights to maintain economic benefits and security (union workers), on the one side, and the (historically) traditional employer working to achieve "at-will" employment patterns in the public sector, and eventually, throughout the entire private sector, on the other.

Let's see who prevails.

Feb. 18 2011 12:59 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

Also, with regard to your question, "Finally, on what authority do you propose to ban public sector unions?"

I have no "authority" as such but elected officials do and there is no constitutional prohibition against baring collective bargaining for public employees, so state law is sufficient, it's happening now in Wisconsin.

Feb. 18 2011 11:41 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

I think we mostly disagree, but as a matter of fact all public sector employees are entitled to due process protections that private sector employees are not. The ACLU has been trying to get the rights of public employees extended to the private sector for many years, without success, which is how I've become familiar with the issue. I am very much in favor of giving private sector employees the same protections as public sector employees but they do not have those at present. An "at-will" employee in the private sector cannot assert a "right to due process" prior to termination, they are not recognized as having a "property interest" in their position. Private employees are only protected from discrimination in hiring, some whistle blower statutes and various state laws that differ greatly.

Feb. 18 2011 11:28 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

So glad that Mr. Henelley is on, being that he is one of the few WNYC personalities that speaks of globalization. The caller is only looking at the upside/advantage of gloablization, completely ignoring any downside, of which there are myriad which must be tempered.

@ Mr. Bad - Sorry, couldn't disagree more. First of all unions - public or private sector - NEGOTIATE all deals with their employers. Nothing - no terms or conditions - is ever given (ever).

In the case of public sector unions, they negotiate with Government officials who are elected by constituents. Some officials will be elected with the help of unions, some will get elected in opposition to unions.

The opposition is something you and other on the economic right seem to forget. For instance, was Mayor Bloomberg elected with a great groundswell of support from the unions? I don't think so. They came along in later elections.

The point is that just because public sector unions work as employees for various governments, the support waxes and wanes and terms that unions fight for often are lost. The basis of any deals they have are based on rightful, legally binding contracts that government employer agrees to pay on, which pretty much wasn't happening in states like NJ, for example.

"Reality" (your term) is whatever the two sides come to agreement on. What I see as reality is that PUBLIC SECTOR unions will more and more get away from defined benefit pensions just like the private sector unions.

By using such inflammatory language about union workers (all workers??) you demonstrate the unreasonable hatred targeted on public sector unions, who don't get anything without legal collective bargaining (contrary to what you said).

Finally, on what authority do you propose to ban public sector unions? Pretty extreme "Right to Work"-type of mentality...

Feb. 18 2011 11:06 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Liam from East Elmhurst

Finally, an honest person! Yes, unions employees are only in it for themselves, they don't care who pays their salary and benefits just as long as they get paid. Nothing wrong with that, and there is nothing wrong with taxpayers electing politicians who will act in THEIR (the taxpayers) interest and break these unions who have outlived their benefit to society as a whole.

I only object to unions framing their arguments as if they are standing up for the working people they're robbing blind, as if we should all just "be happy" for them and slave away at our crappy jobs to pay the taxes that go into their pockets.

Feb. 18 2011 10:54 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

I agree-cops aught to live here.
Too many don't.

Paying them less leaves them open to corruption.
Drug laws are simply there to keep the money flow to big government policies which can be used to hold control over the people, and, I think, over some South American countries.

Look, if there were no unions in the city jobs, there'd be no recourse to action. Try and take on big government alone.
That's the whole purpose of our commenting here, right?

Feb. 18 2011 10:50 AM
Mike from Manhattan

Increasing taxes on high incomes is not fair because "they can afford it." It is fair because high income people are benefiting most from social structures that taxes pay for! A subsistence farmer has the lowest income in the world, but they also use and receive the least benefit from the societal infrastructure and organizational technologies (e.g. the military), so they should pay no taxes. The situation is more complicated to describe in industrialized, and de-industrialized societies, but it comes out to the same thing.

Feb. 18 2011 10:49 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

The wealthy and influential have lawyers-we have no one.
As another person said, even the labor unions have long been in it for their SELF-INTEREST.

Say, what happened to Adam Smith's ENLIGHTENED self-interest?

Ask any tatooed moron that bumps into you on the street and doesn't even apologize?
Or listen to rap...

Feb. 18 2011 10:46 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Liam from East Elmhurst

LOL, yes, it was a truly terrifying moment in history when cops had to work to get paid - but then again some of them lived in the city back then didn't they? Reform the ridiculous drug laws in this country and you can halve the police force in this city and in every major metropolitan area in the country overnight. These cops LOVE the drug war, all the overtime and SWAT units and ways to skirt the Bill of Rights - more public sector employees doing what they do best, screwing working people over for the $$$$!

Feb. 18 2011 10:44 AM
JT from LI

Cuomo wants NYC to chip in more because the city is doing well, isn't that the same as asking the wealthy to chip in more because they're doing better?

Feb. 18 2011 10:43 AM
Mike from Manhattan

Equity in terms of revenue from NYC coming back to NYC and not redistributed to the Republican Up-Staters (who supposed don't believe in such redistributions...unless they are 0on the receiving end) would be fair, as would asking those who benefit most from society to pay the most for it...i.e. by continuing the high-income surtax. Trying to use the current fiscal crisis to attack the teachers is unfair and based on misrepresentations about tenure and out-right lies about the problems with our public schools.

Feb. 18 2011 10:43 AM
Amy from Manhattan

To the caller who says rich people shouldn't be taxed at a higher rate, their higher income comes from the work of all the people they pay less than a hundredth of their own salaries. When the income disparity is that high, they *should* pay a higher percentage in taxes--they're the ones who can afford it.

Feb. 18 2011 10:43 AM
Bobby G from East Village

Bob Hennelly is exactly right. It is long past time for The City to regain control of its own affairs from the perennially dysfunctional State Government.

Feb. 18 2011 10:40 AM
Henry from Katonah

Thank you , Bob, for the point about the federal gov't saving the jobs of everyone in the financial sector !
I do not mind taking Ronnie head on.
Higher income people benefit more from this economy, therefore they should pay a slightly higher percentage of their income.
I believe that Clinton era tax rates - maximum 39% was not unreasonable. It paid for the social safety net that everyone seem to want.
I am also sorry that you did not ask Ronnie what he thinks of hedge fund managers paying an 18% rate on their income.

Feb. 18 2011 10:40 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Mobile capital will ALWAYS have the advantage over labor, because labor is not nearly as mobile as capital. You can move money overseas in minutes, build or move a factory overseas in a matter of weeks or months, but a fired NYC teacher cannot just take a plane to Tokyo or Beijing, walk into the labor exchange and get a new job. So the reason why the owners of capital can always stay far ahead is by rapidly taking advantage of changing labor and tax rates abroad, but labor is generally stuck. There is some legal and illegal immigration, but very little international mobility for regular workers.

Feb. 18 2011 10:40 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

Time once-more for NYC secession from NY State movement to gain momentum.

They need us - we don't need them!

Cram it, Gov. Dumbo!

Feb. 18 2011 10:39 AM
Eric Dyer from Brooklyn

We have trash collection 3 days a week. I think we could easily eliminate 1 pick up a week without un-due harm. This is only one example. Instead of discussing areas where the city could really economize, the Mayor is threatening draconian measures in areas that really matter to peoples lives as a form of political posturing.

Feb. 18 2011 10:39 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

Unions are needed in the public sector.
Remember when NYPD walking wounded HAD to work if they wanted to get paid.
Get real, slavery is the end of this corporate rainbow!!!
However, labor unions need to understand their position in the overall picture of America.
They must be patriotic, too.

In their favor, if even overpaid, they spend their money in their communities-not on trips around the world like the over-stuffed wealthy do.

Feb. 18 2011 10:35 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

Well, at least you're fair about it but public and private sector unions need to be differentiated. Public sector employees have RIGHTS that private sector employees can only dream of, and that is without any form of collective bargaining. Public sector unions should be illegal, private sector unions should be encouraged. Public sector unions have benefits completely out of line with reality, who is so foolish to suggest we will see the return of defined benefit pensions in the private sector, EVER?!?! C'mon, public sector unions are bloodsuckers who feed off of the taxes of other working folks - it's us or them and they have clearly made their choice!

Feb. 18 2011 10:31 AM

don't tax me, don't tax me!!

Feb. 18 2011 10:31 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

Monica Crowley for mayor, Sarah Palin for whatever it is she does (did), and Rush Limbaugh for spokesperson.
Mayor corporate can be OVER-SEER like Putin is in Russia.
We could get one of those dictators from the Middle East here since they are out of work.
Oh, and, let's get is done right. ANYONE making 100 million dollars or more doesn't even pay tax on a bottle of soda pop-they sponsor the economy, right?
H.L. Mencken "Never underestimate...".
Sickening that some middle and lower class Americans even vote Republican anymore, and, with the gutless compromising Democrats out there, they shouldn't hold office either.

Feb. 18 2011 10:30 AM
Dave from New Jersey

Governor Krispy Kreme sure as hell isn't going to ask the filthy rich in NJ to make any sacrifices for the state...they're his campaign contributors.

Take money out of politics and watch 95% of our societal ills evaporate.

Feb. 18 2011 10:29 AM
Mark Simpson from Kensington

Does the budget do anything to address the affordability of living in NY? We are a young family in Kensington in a 1 bedroom apt with a good income on paper for anywhere else in the country. Nearly every young family we know is considering fleeing for the suburbs to increase quality of life.

Feb. 18 2011 10:25 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Does the National Labor Relations Act allow a state government to deny its workers the right to collective bargaining? Are governments exempt from its requirements?

Feb. 18 2011 10:25 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

The bill to end collective bargaining for the unionized public sector workers by Governor Scott Walker and other Republicans is about much more than budget cuts - since there are other ways to get to the same point vis-a-vis public sector worker compensation - and is fueled largely by anti-union ("busting") ideology pervasive amongst American right wingers.

What Walker et al. are doing is trying to establish "Right to Work" laws, like those in much of the South, that gut union strength and allow employers almost total control over hiring, firing, wage determination. Most importantly, anti-union busting goes a long way towards achieving the American right wing dream of a limited (in some cases, nonexistent) safety net that they term "socialist."

Make no mistake, unions aren't perfect, sometimes excessive, hard to work with, led by corrupt officials, etc., but frankly their job is to help their members, for which they take flak. Why is it that when corporations, governments, employers are helping themselves to whatever they can at the cost of employees, it is understood and often respected, but when unions do it - whether public or private sector - it's considered a travesty?

Call what Gov. Walker and other state governments are doing what it is: Not just anti-union practices, but anti-worker.

Feb. 18 2011 10:24 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This is a great first step, cut 4500 loafers and losers from the pad ... there are AT LEAST that many ... TEACHERS ARE THE PROBLEM! We all know it, stop hiding behind the kids whose lives you're ruining with your lackadaisical teaching, just waiting for summer break! Breaking the public sector unions is the first step towards sustainable state budgets. From CA Prison Guards to NYC teachers these parasites are to progressives what bankers are to the right - the eminence gris. Public sector unions DO NOTHING but suck money from taxpayers and have completely abandoned the broader progressive labor agenda - they are turncoats and the sooner they are broken the better - MTA should be next!

Feb. 18 2011 10:24 AM
sheldon from brooklyn

Wasn't the "millionaire's" tax surcharge passed on the promise of it being temporary?

Now politicians and their sycophants want to "extend" it, and of course, it will eventually become permanent. And yet again, there will be another reason NOT to trust government.

Feb. 18 2011 10:24 AM
Edward from NJ

The one skill that veteran teachers definitely have is classroom management. If they didn't have it, they would have quit or been fired years ago. Considering that layoffs could push class sizes up close to 40 students, classroom management may become the most important skill.

Feb. 18 2011 10:23 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

Mayor B is disgusting. His last initial should be S.
It's funny how now the mayor of the largest financial center in the world who warned no one of the coming fiscal crisis (tell me that financial wizard didn't know!) now want's cuts based soley on experience to NY's teachers.
How stupid are we? He BOUGHT the election and wants more of his kind running the system-big business creeps!

Feb. 18 2011 10:23 AM

"The mayor wouldn't send his kids to a school with 34 kids in a class"

I went to a private school. Average class size? 34 kids. Rate of students who went to college or uni in my class: 99.5%

Trust me: size isn't everything.

Feb. 18 2011 10:20 AM
MP from Brooklyn

Brad, you are 100% correct - I think that what Bloomberg is doing is disgusting and wrong. Stop attacking the teachers! They are not the problem.

Feb. 18 2011 10:16 AM
Sebastien from Long Island

Senior teachers cost more because they've been there longer and get a pay increase every year they are there.
Wait... wait... Quick. Name another job where you get a raise every year just for being there.

Feb. 18 2011 10:14 AM

Does the city send more money to Albany then it gets back? And DC?

Feb. 18 2011 10:00 AM
Michael from Brooklyn, home of the Cyclones

Please ask the councilman what he is doing in his office/district/committee/city council to save taxpayers' dollars that could be used by other city agencies.

Think city wide, act district wide! a NYC take on think global act local.

Feb. 18 2011 09:35 AM
warren katz

you will never know what is going in the system if you do not ask the right people. I could write a dozen books about the BOE and the UFT and the miss handling of funds and programs.Please contact me for I have nothing to loose except my job for squealing.

Feb. 18 2011 09:17 AM
richard new jersey

The ME Generation takes the helm but the RESPONSIBILITY as it has shown my generation BABY BOOMERS are OLNLY TAKERS and NOTE GIVERS.

Its our time to step up and and take care of the next generations.




Feb. 18 2011 07:37 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by