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'Murky Waters' Cloud De Blasio’s First Budget Address

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

WNYC
Mayor de Blasio and Budget Director Dean Fuleihan present the administration's 2015 preliminary budget (Rob Bennett/NYC Mayor's Office)

Mayor de Blasio could not resist slinging some mud during his first budget address on Wednesday arguing the city faces “murky waters” created by the Bloomberg administration’s “unprecedented failure” to resolve open labor contracts with city workers.

“I think the previous administration was given an artificially high level of credit for management,” said de Blasio pointing to 152 expired municipal labor contracts left for his administration to negotiate.

Those open contracts combined with uncertainty around state and federal funding were the risk factors that de Blasio used to frame his $74 billion budget proposal, which he delivered in the City Hall Blue Room along with his new Budget Director Dean Fuleihan.

While the city is projecting balanced budgets in 2014 and in the preliminary 2015 plan, some of the murkiness de Blasio faces is of his own making: his budget plans for $530 million of revenue to pay for universal full-day pre-kindergarten from the yet-to-be-passed tax increase on city residents who make more than half a million dollars.

That tax hike must be passed by state lawmakers, who've expressed skepticism or outright opposition to the plan. And, Governor Cuomo continues to push his own statewide pre-k proposal funded through the budget, as an alternative.

De Blasio’s preliminary plan contains funding for programs that are central to his progressive agenda. There’s money for the new NYPD Inspector General who will oversee court-ordered stop and frisk reforms; paid sick leave implementation and enforcement; expanded homeless services; and the municipal ID cards the mayor called for during his State of the City address on Monday.

The Mayor also said he's ending the so-called "budget dance" with the City Council, that annual back and forth where the mayor proposes cuts, the council and advocates wage a public fight to restore them. For example, funding is included in the mayor's preliminary budget for 20 firehouses that had been the chopping block in past budgets.

De Blasio also set aside $1 billion for the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund, a rainy-day reserve that the Bloomberg administration was on track to drain. And, he plans to set aside $600 million for the city’s general reserve.

While that money could be used to begin contract negotiations, de Blasio would not commit to the proposal Wednesday. Many of the unions have been working on expired contracts for up to six years and all have asked for retroactive raises, which could carry a price tag of up to $7 billion.

Teacher’s union president Michael Mulgrew called the preliminary budget a “welcome departure” from the Bloomberg administration. Mulgrew also cited the mayor’s comments about negotiating contracts in “an atmosphere of partnership.” But Mulgrew also signaled there was still a long way to go.

Harry Nespoli, head of the Municipal Labor Committee was more blunt. He said the mayor’s budget “vindicates our long held position that the City is running a budgetary surplus and is financially sound.”

But he also offered caution against reading too much into those reserve funds.

“Though it is important that surplus money is being set aside the actual amount does not reflect any agreement with the City’s unions on what is necessary to resolve the more than 150 open labor contracts,” said Nespoli.

Editors:

Julianne Welby

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Comments [2]

jeta from NYC

"Mayor de Blasio could not resist slinging some mud..."

This is hardly impartial journalism. The reporter is obviously opinionated and not just telling the story but inflecting her own judgements from the very beginning. De Blasio is hardly slinging mud by telling the truth of the situation: Bloomberg left labor negotiations in shambles.

Shabby reporting.

Feb. 13 2014 10:23 AM
Teacher from New York

It appears that the Bloomberg administration left the city in good financial shape.
Mayor deBlasio ought to govern without continually trying to prove he's not Bloomberg.
As the storm rages, it is clear that preparation was inadequate for clearing many city streets. Although he will be adding 3 additional no-school observance holidays to the calendar, the Mayor has made the irresponsible decision to keep schools open today.

Feb. 13 2014 08:49 AM

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