De Blasio’s budget: Increased spending, not many cuts

Stephon Johnson | 5/15/2014, 10:47 a.m.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new budget wants to have its cake and eat it too.
Bill deBlasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new budget wants to have its cake and eat it too.

Presented during a news conference at City Hall, de Blasio’s new budget would increase spending by 6 percent when compared to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last plan. It includes a long-term commitment to pay $17.8 billion in compensation to the city’s labor unions, including retroactive wages, that will stretch into the year 2021.

“Now, I just want to say at the outset, there are some—I’ve met them over the years—who have trouble equating fiscal responsibility with progressive values,” said de Blasio during the budget presentation. “I think the two must go hand in hand. I think part of being an honest progressive is recognizing the world as it is and achieving the kinds of savings that allow us to actually do the good work of government consistently.”

Due to a projected increase in tax receipts, because of the economy, city revenue-backed spending would rise by $2.1 billion to $56.1 billion (close to 4 percent). While de Blasio’s budget is required to be balanced by law, there’s also a projected $2.2 billion deficit starting in July of 2015. That’s double the estimate of the mayor’s preliminary budget, which was released last year.

But de Blasio believes he can have it both ways. He told reporters that he’s figured out a way to be financially responsible and do right by the people of New York City.

“There is nothing unprogressive about being fiscally prudent. In fact, it’s necessary,” de Blasio continued. “And if you believe in the positive role of government as I do, then you need a strong and stable foundation to allow us to take the steps we need to create more fairness in people’s lives. A government that is wracked by fiscal instability simply can’t do that. A government that has a strong plan going forward is in a position to do a lot of good for people.”

Doing a lot of good for people includes projected budget deficits of $2 billion in fiscal year 2017 and $3.2 billion in fiscal year 2018. De Blasio calls these deficits “manageable.”

Some of the funding for the mayor’s championed initiatives includes $300 million in state funds to expand universal pre-K, $145 million for new after-school program, and money to create and preserve affordable housing in the five boroughs. One housing advocate felt it was high time for affordable housing to be addressed by City Hall.

“By investing in NYCHA, affordable housing preservation and development, and in addressing the homelessness crisis, Mayor de Blasio is putting his money where his mouth is,” said Jonathan Westin, the executive director of New York Communities for Change, in a statement. “It is refreshing to see a mayor truly make affordable housing a priority, which is what this budget does.”

There’s also money set aside for de Blasio’s municipal ID program, which drew praise from Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.