2009-05-07 / From The Mayor...

FROM THE MAYOR'S DESK ...

Moving City And Budget Forward In Tough Times

Recently, we've been stressing the sensible measures, like covering sneezes and coughs, that everyone can take to stop the spread of flu and other viruses.

Following vigilant precautions pays off in other ways, too - and the City budget that we have presented shows that.

Well over a year ago, we recognized that the city and national economies were entering a downturn. And instead of sticking our heads in the sand, or engaging in wishful thinking, we began then to stabilize the City's finances. Since January 2008, City agencies have taken $3.4 billion worth of actions to close the looming gap in next year's budget.

We've also been able to draw on approximately $5 billion in surpluses the City accumulated - and wisely didn't spend - during the last economic boom to help balance that budget.

As a result, even as this recession has proved far more painful than anyone could have predicted, we've been able to keep the city moving forward. We've driven crime down even further, keeping New York the nation's safest big city.

We've continued to improve our schools and quality of life. And we've launched initiatives to help New Yorkers stay in their homes, find new jobs, and keep their small businesses open - the essential first steps on the road toward our goal of creating or preserving 400,000 jobs in our city over the next six years.

The wise measures we've taken over the past 16 months have also allowed us to prepare a budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1st, that will get us through the difficult days ahead without resorting to the 'worst-case' measures we were considering in January.

We no longer, for example, anticipate that there will be teacher layoffs - good news for students and parents alike.

Even though we're reducing our capital budget, there won't be any cutbacks in school construction - and there will still be almost $62 billion in job-creating investments in rebuilding our infrastructure over the next ten years. We'll keep our public safety and safety net services strong.

And to speed our economic recovery, we'll also increase job training, augment our emergency loan pool for small businesses, and step up efforts to prevent housing foreclosures and abandonments.

Now, to accomplish all this, we'll need the help of the City's partners in State government, and also the cooperation of the City's workforce. Albany must approve a new pension tier for future City employees, just as State leaders did during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

That will reduce the ever-growing bite pension costs take out of the funds we could otherwise use to pay police officers, keep libraries open, and clean our streets. We're also asking City unions to join us in restructuring health care plans to produce recurring savings. And regrettably, to preserve essential services even with the billions of dollars in budgets cuts that we've made, we'll also need a halfpercentage point increase in the sales tax.

Even with all these measures, there will continue to be further belt-tightening by City agencies. But we're going to make sure that everything we do protects our quality of life, including the safety and health of all New Yorkers.

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