By Mark Hallum
Mayor Bill de Blasio released his preliminary budget for FY2019 on Feb. 1 with no mention of providing funding toward public transportation, even as commuters face an ongoing crisis on the city’s subways.
De Blasio defended the omission of MTA contributions on the Brian Lehrer Show the following day using talking points he has repeated since the summer.
“[The] MTA does have substantial resources. They should apply them the right way,” de Blasio said on the show. “Not to extraneous matters, but to the core problems related to the signals, the electronics, the things that really determine whether trains run on time and run smoothly. Obviously I’ve made the point that the state siphoned off $450 million from the MTA over the last few years. This is the perfect time to put that money back in the MTA budget. That resolves all the short-term issues.”
The mayor also told Lehrer that he tentatively supports the Fix NYC congestion-pricing proposal, a plan that claims the best way to create a dedicated-funding stream for the MTA is to charge an $11.52 toll on vehicles traveling from the outer boroughs into the central business district of Manhattan, which would start below 60th Street.
And De Blasio continued to push his millionaire’s tax plan as a long-term way to establish a dedicated-revenue stream for the MTA, but said he would support any package as long as the state maintained its responsibility over the subways, citing the need to financially protect city services from the state and federal government.
“I think the millionaire’s tax is the best way to go, but again, whatever item or combination of items make up a revenue package, by the end of the June, when the legislature leaves Albany, we must have long-term funding for the MTA,” the mayor said. “From my point of view, that is something that has to be resolved at the state level. We at the city level are responsible for everything else going on in the city when you think about it: police, fire, sanitation, schools, everything you can think of. We have to protect those services and we have to protect our long-term fiscal health which is threatened by both Albany and Washington.”
De Blasio said he believes the inability of the federal government to create a budget and the $1.5 trillion deficit will be detrimental to any infrastructure plan.
The FY2019 budget lays out a spending plan of $88.67 billion with an expected savings of $900 million through a partial hiring freeze and other debt management, and suggests setting aside $500 million of that savings for the executive budget.
The de Blasio Administration plans to put $750 million of the budget toward capital funding to build more affordable housing and preserve the existing stock; $72 million toward Pre-K; and $12 million toward the full roll out of body cameras for all NYPD officers, an initiative that will also receive $5 million from the FY2018 budget.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall