Announcing the city’s annual budget today, Mayor Mike Bloomberg said he would not be increasing taxes and he would not be laying off teachers, police officers, or firefighters. He said it multiple times. Runnin’ Scared, watching a live feed of his announcement, counted at least three times. Can you hear him, folks? Just in case you missed it — no new taxes and no layoffs for uniformed workers.
He went over a lot of other stuff, too.
The preliminary 2013 budget is a $68.7 billion plan with a city-funded portion of $50.7 million.
The plan closes a $2 billion budget gap without tax increases, Bloomberg said, speaking at City Hall. The city will spend less in virtually every major area, except for education — where funds will again increase.
Updating reporters on the state of New York City’s economy, he said that the city has regained 65 percent of private sector jobs that were lost during the recession, compared with a 36 percent gain nationwide. The city anticipates a recovery of all jobs lost in the downturn by the end of 2013 — one year sooner than the rest of the country.
“Cities across the country have struggled to keep their heads above water — laying off teachers, police officers, or firefighters, with a few even having to declare bankruptcy,” he said at the start of the speech. “We have avoided those painful steps, I’m happy to say.”
Bloomberg, as expected, pushed for pension reforms that would create a new lower pension tier for future government workers. This is in light of projections that the city’s pension costs in 2013 will be $8 billion — a 500 percent increase from 2002.
He said that it’s “fairly described as a ticking-time bomb,” and that the city needs to work with Governor Cuomo to diffuse the problem. “We just cannot afford to pay such costs,” Bloomberg said. “That’s simply not a sustainable course.”
Preemptively angry electeds and nonprofit groups rallied this morning on the steps of City Hall, calling on the mayor to present a budget that is not balanced on the back of working- and middle-class New Yorkers. The press conference had an Occupy Wall Street theme, with speakers asking Bloomberg to consider the needs of the 99 percent by raising taxes instead of cutting needed services.
“The mayor said he needed a third term, which most New Yorkers weren’t comfortable with, because of the creativity that he brings to the budget process. I hope that this new budget will mirror that,” said City Councilmember Jumaane Williams. “I’m hoping the mayor [says]… ‘I have heard the voice of the 99 percent,’ and that is reflected in that budget.”
“The City Council needs to flex its muscles if the mayor has not been the creative mayor he said he would be,” Williams added.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, frequently referencing OWS, added, “It is primarily those services which matter most to working and middle class New Yorkers that face the biggest cut every year with no real effort to find new ways to raise revenue.”
Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito — who may be eyeing the City Council speaker position — stopped by toward the end of the conference to apply some pressure on the mayor too and praise the Occupy movement.
“We want to see a humane budget that really protects the most vulnerable,” she said. “We understand that the Occupy Wall Street movement has really infiltrated — the message is infiltrating all over the country and in the city as well… As legislators that care — as legislators here that represent the 99 percent — we’re saying that we’re watching.”
(On paper, i.e press releases, City Council members Letitia James, Daniel Dromm, Mathieu Eugene, Fernando Cabrera, Sara Gonzalez, Robert Jackson, and Stephen Levin also supported the rally. We think some of them might have been preoccupied with this).
Post-budget announcement, we’ve gathered some reactions from angry pols and nonprofit groups that flooded our inbox. Below are some for your reading pleasure!
VOCAL-NY, an advocacy group, sent out an email after the budget criticizing the plan for its cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, including housing, nutrition, and prevention initiatives. (Wayne Starks, a VOCAL-NY board member at the rally this morning, had predicted he would be displeased: “Mayor Bloomberg is a coward because he only attacks the most vulnerable people.”)
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a contender for mayor, criticized Bloomberg for not investing enough funds into early childhood programs, including Head Start, Universal Pre-Kindergarten, and child care. (De Blasio, a loud critic of Bloomberg on many occasions, recently clashed with the city over the issue of child fatalities.) His office later emailed out another statement, expressing concerns about proposed cuts to fire houses, linking to a 2011 report that outlined the consequences of these kinds of closures.
Comptroller John Liu, another mayoral hopeful (unlikely to succeed, according to Bloomberg), emailed out a statement this afternoon praising the mayor for avoiding layoffs, but broadly criticized the budget strategy, saying, “The use of short-term financial maneuvers doesn’t reduce real cost but simply defers costs to future administrations.” (A full analysis will be released in coming weeks, his office says!)
City Council speaker Christine Quinn, another mayoral hopeful — who is sometimes criticized for too often agreeing with Bloomberg — didn’t shy away from criticism today, saying in a statement that she was concerned about the closure of firehouses and cuts to libraries, cultural institutions, after-school programs, and the Chief Medical Examiner’s office.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer — yet another mayoral contender (who is giving his State of the Borough speech tonight) — said basically the exact same thing as Quinn in his response statement: “I must express my serious concerns about cuts to day-care slots, fire stations and libraries both in the borough I represent and citywide.”
(The two can discuss their shared concerns when they see each other tonight!)