Cuts, cuts and more cuts.
That is the reality facing the city and state governments with billions of dollars needing to be trimmed from next year’s budget to offset projected deficits resulting from a troubled economy.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced plans to reduce the projected $4 billion budget gap for the fiscal years 2009 and 2010 to $1.3 billion. The series of cost-saving measures included $1.5 billion in savings achieved through spending reductions and other measures, rescinding the 7 percent property tax reduction immediately and not issuing the $400 property tax rebate.
“The gravity of the budget situation requires us to make hard choices that will not be popular with everyone,” Bloomberg said. “But, they’re the right ones to see us through these very difficult economic times and they will help speed our recovery, while continuing to keep our streets safe and clean and keep improving our schools.”
Bloomberg’s plan includes reducing the size of the city’s workforce by more than 3,000 employees, having one police academy class instead of two, reducing city funds to schools by $181 million this year and $385 million next year and cutting subsidies to libraries and cultural institutions by 2.5 percent this year and 5 percent next year.
Meanwhile, the economic forecasts have New York State’s outlook even dimmer with budget deficit predictions at roughly $14 billion over the next two years. Governor David Paterson was expected to announce his plans to trim next year’s state budget by $2 billion on Wednesday, November 12.
In addition, legislators are expected to return to Albany on November 18 to try to trim $1.5 billion from this year’s budget gap and talk about future cost saving measures to deal with the projected $12.5 billion gap the following year.
“The amount of the budget deficit is incredible, but one of the things I have placed high priority on is rebuilding the economy,” Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith said on a recent conference call with reporters.
Smith, who will likely become the Senate Majority Leader since the Democrats retook the majority of seats in the State Senate following the November 4 election, would play a major role in the budget discussions now that all three legislative branches would be under Democratic control.
In addition, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recently announced that their projected budget deficit swelled to nearly $1.2 billion next year, which will almost undoubtedly lead to service cuts and increased fares for riders. MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot Sander would not say the extent of the service cuts or fare increases, but he would discuss them more at an MTA meeting later this month.
“I think that they will be very, very significant,” Sander said referring to the cuts. “Whatever that mix that we come up with, in terms of fare and toll increases or service reductions, there is no question they would have an impact, significantly, on our customers and on the functioning of our region.”
One of the ideas floating around to raise additional revenue is installing tolls on the East River bridges.
“Like a specter from a Shakespeare play, the ghost of tolling the East River bridges has popped up again,” said Queens and Brooklyn Congressmember Anthony Weiner. “This idea should stay dead. It’s a regressive tax on middle class and working New Yorkers, it falls on residents of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, and it would create untenable traffic jams.”
City, state budgets face deep cuts
Cuts, cuts and more cuts.