Testing Thompson’s Plan to Close the Budget Gap

Bill Thompson came in for some tough questioning this morning at the Crain’s business breakfast at the Grand Hyatt, where the editor of that business-oriented news outlet repeatedly asked the candidate how he would close next year’s budget gap, estimated to be about $5 billion.

Thompson said he’d “eliminate[e] those programs that don’t work,” bring home more money from Washington and Albany, and specifically, he’d urge for the reinstatement of the commuter tax.

The editor, Greg David, wasn’t impressed, and asked for specific programs Thompson would cut.

Thompson said he’d end “no-bid” contracts at the Board of Education and reduce overruns in construction costs at the Department of Environmental Protection.

Later, when Thompson said he’d grow the economy by focusing on protecting manufacturing jobs by having a moratorium on rezoning them, David asked why he'd bother, and said that five previous mayors promised to protect manufacturing only to see those jobs disappear anyway. David suggested the next mayor should focus on emerging job sectors like tourism. Thompson replied by saying he could do that and spur manufacturing jobs at the same time.

In a scrum with reporters afterward, Thompson said he would not rule out reducing the size of the city’s workforce, saying you “don’t want to take anything off the table.” But, he said, “that’s not where you want to start. You want to start with eliminating waste in government.”

“I didn’t hear a realistic plan to close the $5 billion budget deficit today, no,” David said afterward.