Technically, Michael Bloomberg’s $59.1 billion budget increases spending — albeit by one tenth of one percent — but the loudest critcism it’s facing so far is from officials and interest groups that want him to spend more.
Take the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, whose contract disagreement with City Hall, the mayor said, could break the pattern agreement the city set with other municipal unions. If so, it would trigger expensive “re-opening,” clauses in those contracts, and would jeopardize perks in the budget like the $400 homeowner’s rebate and the 7 percent home assessment reduction.
The PBA says the city is spending surplus money on unnecessary future expenses. PBA spokesman Al O’Leary told me, “It’s like saying, I’m prepaying my mortgage until 2010 but I don’t have enough money to by food.”
Bloomberg is also getting criticized for cutting back spending in the area of summer jobs for young people. Lew Fidler, chair of the Youth Services Committee, said the budget will “ cost us 5,600 summer jobs. Considering that we had twice as many applicants as we had jobs, that’s pretty serious.” He said it’s unwise to cut those jobs because money spent to employ children “is coming back to you in taxes. It’s almost like recycling the money through summer jobs.”
David Weprin, chair of the Finance Committee, generally approved of the restraint in Bloomberg’s budget, as did Speaker Christine Quinn, despite the fact that her proposals for a renter’s rebate and sales tax-free week were not included. She praised the mayor’s budget for creating “responsible safeguards for the future,” although she also said that “the cuts to a number of City agencies, most notably to the Department of Education, are a cause for concern.”
Both she and her likely mayoral rival, Bill Thompson, said they’ll look forward to hearing more details about one major cost-saving proposal: stretching the city’s four-year capital plan over five years, reducing immediate spending in that area by 20 percent.
Simcha Felder, chair of the Government Operations Committee and a fairly reliable Bloomberg ally, defended the scaled-back capital plan. "I was intrigued by it. I don’t think they have much of a choice," he said. "There’s no way in the world they can do everything, unless they’re in Albany where they can keep spending and spending and spending."