By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Unable to withstand this "blood-on-your-hands" taunt, Vallone is likely to accept a "compromise" that allows the council to claim victory because the new cops will be assigned to precincts, instead of Rudy's long-favored specialized units, and the mayor to get what he's wanted all along: the largest municipal army since Caesar's Rome.
It's not just vouchers, the start-up of minor league baseball in Staten Island, massive new tax cuts, and the police hiring schedule that dovetail with Giuliani's Senate agenda. He induced Vallone into jointly blocking the Board of Ed's capital construction plan, siding with Queens beep Claire Schulman, who endorsed the mayor in 1997 and just might do it again.
Likewise, the mayor's use of the lion's share of the surplus to prepay debt service in the next two fiscal years, instead of retiring existing debt as fiscal monitors like the Citizens Budget Commission recommend, virtually guarantees that he will be announcing another good-news budget in the middle of his Senate run in 2000. His decision is similiar to a homeowner using a salary bonus to get his mortgage payments off his back for a couple of years, paying them ahead of time to temporarily improve cash flow, rather than trading the mortgage in for a new, smaller one that would be materially cheaper over the long haul.
Combined with the $11 billion in tax cuts Giuliani and Vallone have already enacted and plan to engineer, as well as the nearly 10,000-position growth in the city workforce since 1996, the squandering of the surplus may well leave a post-Giuliani mayor and a post-Vallone speaker with gargantuan gaps. Neither of the currently term-limited leaders seems to care.
Giuliani's budget doesn't contain a cent for labor, and offers next to nothing over the next four years to cover the cost of the promised 2001 closing of the Fresh Kills landfill. The mayor is thus positioned to negotiate endorsement-inspiring contracts with the police, fire, correction, and sanitation unions when they expire midway through 2000, leaving his successor with the headache of finding a way to pay for them (DC 37, the UFT, and the Teamsters 237 are also up, but no Giuliani deals are likely with them).
Rudy's also free to get the electoral credit for shutting Staten Island's dump while the next mayor has to come up with the cash to cover the resulting garbage exports, which the Independent Budget Office conservatively estimates will begin at $230 million a year right after Giuliani ascends to the Senate.
Vallone spent most of 1998 wounded by defecting Democrats who he thought doomed his run against George Pataki. But his acquiescence now to Giuliani's unabashedly political budget may turn out to be the most damaging shot a Democrat will take at the party's 2000 Senate candidate, whether she's a First Lady or a Westchester lady.