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NYT: Bloomberg Proposes Grim Budget

January 28, 2010

Times are tough in New York, we all know. Now, the budget is about to reflect the times even more.

Here’s the story from the Times:

Declaring grimly that the city’s finances were “between a rock and a hard place,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled a $63 billion budget proposal Thursday that would eliminate 20 fire companies, increase commercial parking rates in Manhattan by 50 cents and close swimming pools and a 24-hour homeless drop-in center.

The budget would also slash funding to libraries, reduce the number of caseworkers who deal with HIV/AIDS, eliminate nurse coverage for elementary schools with fewer than 300 students.

The moves were part of a package of cuts to every city agency that would help balance a projected $5 billion deficit for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1. But unlike last year, when Mr. Bloomberg and the City Council raised the sales tax by half a percentage point and began to charge sales tax on clothing over $110, there were no major tax increases.

Still, as dire as his current proposal already was, Mr. Bloomberg did not mince words about how much worse the city’s fiscal outlook could become if Gov. David A. Paterson’s proposed state budget is enacted.

Under that scenario — which Mr. Bloomberg outlined at great length on Monday, when he testified before a state budget committee in Albany — the city could be short up to another $1.3 billion. And the only way the city could make up for that shortfall, Mr. Bloomberg said on Thursday, would be laying off up to 8,500 teachers, 3,150 police officers, closing 15 senior centers and choking off funding to 500 soup kitchens and food pantries.

And, in a first, Mr. Bloomberg even produced a separate booklet — called “Contingency Plan for Proposed State Budget Reductions — detailing the impact on the city.

“The trouble is, there are some things beyond our control,” Mr. Bloomberg said, following a slideshow presentation at City Hall.

At the same time, Mr. Bloomberg, who is now entering a third term, struck a much tougher tone on labor than has routinely been the case, certainly during his second term.

Mr. Bloomberg is proposing city teachers agree to a much smaller raise in their next contract or face the possibility of 2,500 job cuts. And when asked Thursday whether his position signaled a new era of hard-line bargaining with all unions, Mr. Bloomberg sounded almost exasperated.

“The bottom line is we don’t have any money,” he said. “There isn’t money to continue to employ the people we have. Forget about raises — that is so far down the road, it’s not the right question.”

Then, in a challenge, apparently, to the intelligence of the city’s union leaders, he added: “The union leaders in the city aren’t stupid. They understand the fiscal reality.”

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(Read the full story here)

So, what are your thoughts on the Mayor’s actions? Is he right? Are his hands tied, or is he not doing enough?

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