Mayor Bill de Blasio invoked Malcolm X’s famous slogan when asked today about the lengths he would go to to block Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new plan to have the city shoulder more of the costs of running the City University system and Medicaid—a plan he claimed could have a billion dollar price tag for City Hall.
After an unrelated press conference in Queens, Mr. de Blasio lashed out at the budget the governor unveiled yesterday, which calls for the city to pay for escalating Medicaid costs and cover 30 percent of the CUNY budget. Albany has for several years absorbed the low-income healthcare program’s spiking expenses to defray the impact of Mr. Cuomo’s 2-percent property tax cap on local governments, and has underwritten the university system since the city’s brush with bankruptcy in the 1970s.
Mr. de Blasio warned that the plan would mean mounting bills for the city with each passing year, possibly breaking a billion dollars annually by 2020, and would endanger the city’s longterm financial security.
“There are two items in the budget that are not fair to New York City, that are harmful to New York City, that will set us back,” he said, vowing to enlist the city’s representatives in the State Senate and Assembly to do battle with the governor. “We will ask the assistance of both houses of the legislature in fighting these cuts.”
New York City Democrats thoroughly dominate the Assembly, but new Speaker Carl Heastie last year showed a willingness to compromise with the governor in ways unfavorable to the mayor. Republicans openly hostile to Mr. de Blasio enjoy a slim majority in the State Senate, but their conference includes two members from Brooklyn and another from Staten Island.
The mayor said he met with the governor yesterday to express his displeasure, though he would not describe Mr. Cuomo’s reaction, and he will head to Albany in two weeks to make his official response to the budget. The mayor warned that the plan would hurt CUNY students and those dependent on Medicaid.
Asked how far he would go to obstruct the governor’s plans, Mr. de Blasio recalled the phrase the 1960s Nation of Islam leader used when he refused to rule out violence.
“There’s a phrase from American history: ‘by any means necessary,'” he said. “We will do whatever will work.”
The city has seen larger-than-expected tax revenues in recent years, but Mr. de Blasio warned that it needs to stow away copious funds in the event of another recession—which he claimed struggling stock markets across the globe make a real possibility. He argued that in such a situation, both Albany and Washington, D.C. would refuse to come to New York City’s aid.
“There’s no safety net for the City of New York,” he said.
Mr. Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a radio interview this morning, the governor claimed the new plans would be “an unprecedented joint effort between the state and the city” and asserted suggestions that he was looking to “cut [Mr. de Blasio] off at the knees” had anti-Italian overtones. He also argued that the city would see a net benefit under his budget because of a new $20 billion outlay to combat homelessness and additional education spending.
This will be far from the first time the rival Democrats have clashed, even since Mr. de Blasio accused Mr. Cuomo of pursuing a political “vendetta” in June. The two fought bitterly last year when the governor leaned on the city to cough up several billion more to finance the Metropolitan Transportation Authority—which resulted in Mr. de Blasio capitulating to take an additional $2.5 billion for the transit system onto the city’s ledgers.