No significant tax hikes, no spike in city spending: that’s a formula for economic growth. And that’s what New York has grown accustomed to during the Mike Bloomberg era in City Hall.
The mayor unveiled his last budget the other day, and if he took a little extra time to sing the praises of his administration, well, fair enough. Mr. Bloomberg has presided over two very difficult recessions—the post-9/11 crash and the even more serious recession that began in 2008. He has managed to navigate bad times without resorting to dramatic service cuts or sharp tax increases—no small accomplishment.
The $70 billion budget keeps city spending flat, but many New Yorkers are rightfully anxious about a return to budgeting as usual after the mayor leaves office. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio complained that the mayor isn’t spending enough on early education, which Mr. de Blasio wishes to fund by raising taxes on high earners. City Comptroller John Liu referred to the proposal as a “holding-pattern budget.”
As usual, there will be weeks of give and take between the mayor’s office and the City Council over what amounts to a very small portion of overall city spending. The Council will very likely restore funds to prevent the closing of 20 firehouses and the elimination of thousands of day care openings. In the end, however, the budget will look very much like the one the mayor outlined as part of his yearlong farewell tour the other day.
At this time next year, a new mayor will present his or her first-ever budget. Only then will we know if 20 years of accountability and efficiency truly have taken root in City Hall.
It is springtime—hope springs eternal.
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