FROM THE MAYOR’S DESK...
Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo presented his first preliminary budget for New York State. The budget problems he’s inherited are complex, and he’s come up with some very bold and innovative ways to resolve them. We applaud the fresh ideas the Governor is bringing to State government, and we fully support his efforts to reduce State spending.
I recently went to Albany to testify before committees in the State Senate and Assembly and explain to them how the budget the Governor presented last Tuesday will affect New York City. I told the Legislature which of the Governor’s proposals we support – and there are many – and I also urged them to make some key changes. There are two main elements that we’d like the Governor and the Legislature to reconsider.
First, we’d like to make sure that New York City taxpayers are treated equitably. We knew this year’s budget would include cuts, and we are prepared to share in the pain. But we shouldn’t have to absorb more of the pain than the State’s other residents – especially since the City provides the bulk of the State’s revenue. Yet the Governor’s budget cuts aid to other localities by 2 percent, while New York City’s funding was cut by 100 percent. That’s will take away $300 million we could use to avoid some of the layoffs we are facing, including in our schools.
The second concern we have with the Governor’s preliminary budget is that it doesn’t address some of the major structural issues that are driving up our costs every year. On the campaign trail, the Governor promised to help eliminate some of the unfunded mandates that make it impossible for cities like ours to contain costs. In some cases that will mean reining in the rising pension costs that will force us to make deep cuts to services. In other cases, it will mean amending laws and rules to free the City’s hands and allow us to make changes to the way we purchase goods and services and hire and manage employees.
For example, if we do have to lay off teachers this year, we should be able to make decisions based on merit and performance. But right now, State law says we must lay off teachers based solely on the number of years they’ve logged on the job, not how hard they’re working or how well they’re performing. That would be unfair to teachers – and devastating to our kids.
If we don’t deal with these and other structural problems this year, they will only get worse next year, and every year after that. And we’ll feel the pain in every area of city life – in our schools, our health system, and our social services.
We cannot let that happen. Not after all the work we’ve done to pull our City out of the national recession faster and stronger than the rest of the country. That’s the message I’m bringing to Albany as I remind our State leaders that 8.4 million New Yorkers are counting on them to realize the bold vision Governor Cuomo has outlined for a strong, healthy, and financially stable New York State.