From The Mayor’s Desk ...
Last Thursday, I presented the City’s Executive Budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1st. It’s a budget that’s fair, balanced, and good for all New Yorkers—and for that reason, I’m confident that the City Council will reach an agreement with us on this approximately $50 billion spending plan.
The new budget shows just how far New York City has come over the last four years. Rising tax revenues are evidence that our economy is strong and growing stronger. Unemployment hasn’t been this low since before 9/11; our commercial vacancy rate is the lowest in the nation; and we just set a record for tourism.
Our quality of life continues to im-prove. Crime is down 20% from four years ago, and the murder rate could hit another historic low this year. Our streets are clean and our parks are growing. We will continue to help the less fortunate, whether they are in need of a home, a family, or the dignity of having a job.
We also are making the necessary investments in our future. Our Execu-tive Budget increases funding for education. We will decrease class size, hire more school safety agents, and expand teacher mentoring programs. In addition, we’re allocating capital funds to make unprecedented improve-ments on the campuses of the City University of New York. CUNY students deserve great facilities, and we have an ambitious plan to make sure that’s what they get.
We’re also investing in neighborhoods across the City to create jobs, economic opportunity, affordable hous-ing, and open space for all New Yorkers. We will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Jamaica, Greenpoint/ Williamsburg, the Bronx River waterfront, Hunts Point, the Staten Island Homeport and Fort Totten. We don’t just talk about promoting economic development in all five boroughs; we put our money where our mouth is. Anyone who says otherwise just isn’t looking at the facts.
We are also continuing to provide tax relief to the New Yorkers who carried us through the fiscal crisis. We will again offer a $400 property tax rebate to the City’s homeowners. We’re also aiming to cut the City sales tax on clothing and footwear priced under $110. Reducing the sales tax is the fairest way to ease the tax burden on New Yorkers, since everyone pays it. It will help hardworking families make ends meet, stimulate our economy, and prevent the loss of shopping dollars to neighboring cities and states.
We will have a balanced budget in Fiscal Year 2006. But we anticipate having multi-billion dollar gaps be-tween our expenses and our revenue in the years after that. That means we need to continue to be fiscally re-sponsible and restrain spending wherever possible. We have come a long way since the fiscal crisis that followed 9/11. Now is not the time to change course and squander the gains we have made. Over the last four years, we have made hard choices. But the state of the city shows that they were the right choices, and that New York City is on the right course.