Despite calls and queries from the City Council, Mayor Bill de Blasio refused again today to account for how his administration would make up for lost dollars from Washington, given looming cuts for public housing, healthcare and other domestic programs under President Donald Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress.
The mayor took a moment after an unrelated press conference in Brooklyn this morning to address the House GOP’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a new package of legislation that would proffer tax credits, cut subsidies and end the requirement that large employers offer their workers affordable insurance. De Blasio asserted this would strip coverage from some 1.6 million New Yorkers—200,000 of whom are regular users of the city’s Health + Hospitals system.
This, according to de Blasio, would leave the beleaguered network of municipal medical facilities tottering under “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in shortfalls—on top of a deficit already projected to hit $515 million by the decade’s end.
“There’s a tremendous danger to our public hospital system,” the mayor said. “This would be the federal government forcing a huge new expense on the people of New York City. And it would endanger the fiscal stability of our public hospital system, which has already gone through so much turmoil.”
Even so, de Blasio labeled this scenario “a theoretical” and refused to lay out how the city might brace for such a hit. He asserted that making allowances for cuts from Washington would only signal to the Republicans that the city could deal with them, and thus would enable Congress to push ahead.
Instead, he mayor said he would look to a national wave of protest and to the Senate, where the GOP’s grip is far weaker, to prevent the repeal from going through.
“We also are not going to say to folks in Washington ‘go ahead and cut us because we have so much money’—we don’t. Our reserves could be eaten up very, very quickly if the magnitude of budget cuts that’s possible were to play out,” he said. “I am not going to send a message that’s okay. It’s not okay. We want to fight each and every one of those cuts working with allies all over the country.”
Current Senate rules would allow the Republicans to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority vote. But establishing a new plan would require the support of 60 members—that is, the entire Republican deputation plus eight members of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer‘s Democratic conference—to avoid a filibuster.
Schumer has already announced his opposition to the House Republican proposal, as have a handful of GOP senators. And Trump, along with a number of Republican lawmakers, has vowed not to repeal the ACA without a replacement in place.
The mayor released his preliminary spending plan for the approaching fiscal year back in January, and is due to revise and refine it with his official executive budget in April. The rough draft plan included baselining $250 million a year in the city’s reserves, even as the mayor said at the time that he lacked the “guideposts” to plan for what the president and Congress might do next
This month, the federal government announced its intention to slash $35 million in outlays from the New York City Housing Authority, a development first reported by the Wall Street Journal. And the mayor admitted today there may yet be further cuts to come.
In his speech to the joint session of Congress last week, Trump vowed to invest heavily in the military while greatly reducing domestic spending. And he signed an executive order in January that would sever federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” like New York that refuse to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders.
“You could be talking hundreds of millions of dollars in a heartbeat,” the mayor said.
De Blasio told the press that his team will review the short-term spending plan Congress will pass next month.
“By and large, we’re not going to get ahead of the action and start saying what we will compensate for and what we won’t compensate for,” he said. “We’re bracing ourselves for a lot of challenges. So I’m not going to speak at this point about any ways we would compensate. I don’t want to give Washington the easy out of saying localities can compensate. Because at a certain point we literally will not be able to. Because if we are cut on many many fronts simultaneously, we will run out of options.”
“Our job is to have strong reserves and be ready. But we’re not going to make it easier on them to do what they intend to do,” he added.