Rudy's Gift to Mike

A Fiscal Legacy That Will Haunt the Bloomberg Years

Budget director Barsky tried to defend the mayor's backpedaling, warning that the city should be "very careful not to bite the hand that feeds us." Citing Giuliani's "tremendous, great relationship with the White House" and recounting "how many times" Rudy's been there for friendly meetings, Barsky said "you gotta believe" Bush and vowed that "if we don't piss on them," the city will eventually get all its aid.

Hevesi immediately countered that "hoping for goodwill won't work," citing the immediate federal aid to California after the 1989 earthquake, and saying the problem is "us not having consistent lobbying." Even more powerfully, Robert Rubin, who certainly knows Washington, said it would be "vastly more difficult to get the help next year," calling the delays "a heck of a problem."

With the full $20 billion an obvious part of Bloomberg's comeback strategy, Keilin and Horton, for decades two of CBC's guiding lights, offered an immediate budget remedy: a mix of tax increases, service cuts, productivity improvements, and deficit financing. Horton put the gap-closing price tag at $1 billion for each of these four actions, including in the package a two- to three-year wealth tax hike, simultaneous with the Bush tax cut for the rich. Insisting that the labor input would have to include real work-rule changes—as opposed to the mirage labor "contributions" of the Rudy years—the CBC gurus were hopeful that the severity of the crisis would prod change at every level.

Ironically, it was a Giuliani aide, Finance Commissioner Andrew Eristoff, who doubted that even the twin towers was enough of a load to topple the institutional resistance to reform that he said has gripped the city "over the past 25 or 50 years." Eristoff railed about how city leaders "haven't had the will" to more fairly allocate "the burdens and the benefits" of city government, wondering, "Where's the political leadership to make the real choices?" Pressed for an example, he mentioned the city's "biased" property tax classes, which disproportionately hammer rental apartment owners and businesses. Asked by the Voice if he'd ever raised the same question with the mayor he served, Eristoff said no.

Research assistance: Sam Dolnick, Rivka Gwertz, Jeff Herman, Ari Holtzblatt, Whitney Kassel, Jill Nawrocki, Katie Worth

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