Mayor Michael Bloomberg may boast that he’s handing his successor a balanced budget for the first time in city history, but his replacement is having none of it.
“He handed us a balanced budget, and as I said, I’m gratified by that,” mayor-elect Bill de Blasio said Wednesday during a media appearance. “Except, asterisk, you know, we have all the labor contracts open. And we have the sequestration. And we have the possibility of a second government shutdown.”
Bloomberg, who is leaving after 12 years in office, said he has closed a previously predicted $2-billion deficit in the city’s $72.7-billion budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1.
However, the budget only provides for small raises for city employees, not the $7 billion in retroactive pay that the public-sector unions demand. All the city’s more than 150 unions have been working without a contract for the past year, hoping that whatever they can get from the next mayor will be better than what Bloomberg was offering.
While de Blasio has not promised them retroactive raises — he has said that $7 billion is more than what the city can afford — he is expected to give them some sort of back pay, probably for concessions such as workers paying more for their health care or pensions.
“This is a good starting point; when you put aside those crucial issues, at least, we’re in good shape to begin with,” de Blasio said. “But the open labor contracts are unprecedented. … Literally in the history of our government we’ve never had this challenge before, and it is a vast challenge.”
De Blasio promised that the final budget deal he will reach with the City Council in June will look much different from what Bloomberg presented him.
In related news, de Blasio said Wednesday he would soon be launching a “very substantial campaign” to get the state Legislature to approve his signature tax-hike-on-the-wealthy proposal to fund universal pre-kindergarten and expanded after-school programs. He faces a headwind in the form of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Republicans, who are talking about a tax cut, not a raise.
“We intend to put together support from all over the city, all over the state, to get a very strong effort to make sure that our children are served and to go into the new year ready to win that fight in Albany,” de Blasio said.