Mayor Bill de Blasio and the municipal budget

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Mayor Bill de Blasio calling for a fair share of financial assistance from Washington is the same tired old rhetoric from decades ago that has grown stale over time.  Mayor de Blasio’s reference to the late United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan concerning his analysis that New York sends more taxes to Washington than it receives back in aid is true.  The same argument could be made by each of NYC’s five boroughs and 59 community planning boards.  You could take this analysis down to the census track level.  Other cities and states can make similar arguments and have done so.

With a municipal budget of $70 billion and growing, how will Mayor de Blasio manage his existing city, state and federal resources?  NYC’s municipal budget is greater than most states and even many nations.

How has NYC managed the $20 billion plus post 9/11 aid as well as the billions of other dollars from Washington every year? This also applies to billions in yearly state assistance from Albany, along with billions in locally generated tax revenues. Does NYC submit grant applications on time? Are current federal and state funded programs being completed on time and within budget? What is the justification for carrying over unspent funds year after year? Is there waste, fraud or abuse? Are all change orders for construction projects fair, reasonable and documented?

Will Mayor de Blasio insist that NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer implement his proposed municipal tracker system to monitor the expenditures of Hurricane Sandy relief funds that he promised during the Democratic Party primary race for NYC comptroller? There are billions of federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds already available with billions more on the way.

Remember the municipal scandal involving $1 billion in federal aid unspent by the NYC Housing Authority?  How will Mayor de Blasio insure that this will not take place again under his administration?

Will Mayor de Blasio ask NYC Comptroller Stringer and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to immediately conduct audits of each respective municipal agency to see if the city is doing a good job managing current federal and state aid programs? Will he ask NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the next NYC Council finance committee chairperson, NYC Office of Management and Budget and the NYC Independent Budget Office to also provide oversight and conduct audits to see how each municipal agency is managing their respective current state and federal aid programs?

It is difficult to convince Washington for more money when the country is currently running annual budget deficits close to $1 trillion accompanied by long term debt exceeding $17 trillion and growing. Ditto for Albany with a long term debt approaching $70 billion. In past years, NYC public officials including then NYC Councilmember de Blasio boasted of a budget surplus worth billions.  This disappeared in the dead of night when the stock market dropped.

The city’s municipal debt was $43 billion in 2001. In 2013, it reached $70 billion with each resident’s portion of this debt going from $5,300 in 2001 to over $8,000 today. This per resident capital debt makes the Big Apple number one nationally. This is nothing to be proud about. Each year a greater percentage of the city’s budget goes toward debt payments rather than funding current badly needed essentials such as police, fire, sanitation, education and other social services. No elected official has stepped forward to develop any plans to reduce this long term debt. Debt service payments now represent 16 percent of the municipal budget.  How will the Mayor elect deal with this growing crises?

Where will Mayor de Blasio find the funds to pay back his union supporters? Most of the 300,000 NYC municipal employees have been working without contracts for years.  They are obviously going to ask for some retroactive wage increases that could be worth up to $7 billion. No labor union is going to accept any new contracts going forward without wage increases.

For 12 consecutive budget cycles, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to stop funding several hundred million dollars worth of individual NYC councilmembers pork barrel projects. Each year, he has had to give in during budget negotiations with the NYC Council. As a NYC councilmember, de Blasio brought home his fair share of the bacon. As mayor, will he change his tune and veto pork barrel spending by the NYC Council?

Perhaps Mayor de Blasio needs to put his own fiscal house in order before asking Albany and Washington for more assistance.