NYC Mayor Appeals to State Lawmakers to Go Easy on Aid Cuts

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appealed to state lawmakers on Thursday to tamp down on severe aid cuts proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget. He said if the state reduced its outlays to the city by $1 billion over the next 18 months, the move would require the city to slash public health, schools and social programs.

The cuts could be even more harsh if the state doesn’t get $6 billion in federal aid the governor has assumed the state will receive, de Blasio said in the briefing, a yearly ritual deemed “Tin Cup day” where localities plead their case in Albany before assembly members.

De Blasio’s report to lawmakers took on greater significance as the city faces its biggest financial crisis since the Great Recession. New York City’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year widened to $5.3 billion from $3.8 billion as projected tax revenue from offices and hotels plummet.

Commercial property values are projected to fall almost 16% in the coming fiscal year, highlighting the toll of the pandemic. The city’s Finance Department projected retail store and hotel values to drop 21% and 23.8% respectively.

“The executive budget proposal assumes $6 billion in federal stimulus aid -- meaning we face additional cuts if Washington does not come through,” de Blasio said in testimony to state lawmakers during a virtual teleconference Thursday. “Regardless of what happens in Washington, calling on working New Yorkers to forgo essential services is wrong.”

Cuomo’s proposed budget would cut $473 million from the city’s public hospital system through June 2022, which would close 19 health clinics that treat 140,000 patients a year. It would also result in 900 fewer doctors and nurses, the mayor said.

“Even as our health-care heroes are still struggling to make sure New Yorkers are taken care of, the executive budget proposes cuts to health and hospitals,” de Blasio said.

The state’s education cuts to the schools would make it difficult to provide academic intervention programs to recover from and compensate for the loss of academic skills experienced during remote instruction forced upon the city’s students during the pandemic. Schools also need the money for programs to close the achievement gap experienced by disadvantaged students, and to restore arts, advanced placement and algebra classes, he said.

Cuomo in his executive budget address last month recognized that the worst case scenario budget would mean devastating cuts to schools and local governments, as well as hospitals and health-care workers.

“We don’t know, in short, what level of aid we will get, but the budget is dependent on that number,” Cuomo said on January 19. “If the federal government doesn’t fund state and local governments, it’s going to hurt all New Yorkers.”

A spokesperson for New York state’s budget division pushed back against de Blasio’s comments on Thursday.

“Let’s be clear: In the midst of a global pandemic and the worst economic downturn in generations, funding in the Executive Budget for New York City goes up $1.3 billion,” said spokesman Freeman Klopott.

He said the budget calls for a 13% increase in funding for New York City schools, compared to a 7.3% increase statewide.

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