“In planning for the next year, we are facing an unprecedented $6 billion state budget gap. Medicaid cuts could reverse years of progress at NYC Health + Hospitals and impact health care for the most vulnerable. We will work with our partners in Albany to continue to find savings while fighting to protect health care for all New Yorkers.”- Mayor Bill de Blasio, opening his highlights of the preliminary 2021 New York City budget. The budget deficit looms large over the entire state as does the specter of health care cuts. de Blasio also notes the additional $3 billion the MTA demands for their capital plan as well as $100 million for Access-a-Ride.
Given so much uncertainty (and the City’s projection of an economic downturn) the 2.7% growth in the $95.3 billion budget is lower than in previous years. About 2/3rds of growth is driven by labor settlements and benefits, debt service, education, and criminal justice mandates. To those ends, New York City city plans to hire about 1,000 new employees to help implement the mandated criminal justice reforms. In total, $175 million in increased spending is allocated to the law. This law limits the use of cash bail and requires prosecutors and courts to move faster to try suspects and disclose evidence earlier. This bill has received a good deal of controversy of late so it is possible Albany will make some changes to it. On the labor front, $1.6 billion in new spending covers the raises granted under the most recent contracts.
There is something ridiculous about calling a $95.3 billion budget modest but compared to previous years, and certainly, by de Blasio standards this is a modest budget. The rest of the Mayor’s highlighted initiatives are:
- Investing $106 million in Fair Fares (subsidized metro cards to low income New Yorkers)
- Vision Zero investments
- $98 million in capital funds to improve street safety for pedestrians and cyclists on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn
- $178 million in curb cuts citywide to improve street accessibility.
- $33 million to supplement a larger U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach and bayside resiliency project to reconstruct beach crossings with durable, sustainable materials and remove hazardous wooden jetties.
- Investing $12.9 million in capital funds to make improvements at NYCHA community centers.
- Investing $1.8 million annually to support community-based justice programming at the Community Justice Center in the Far Rockaways.
As always those who run small businesses need to be on the lookout for increased nickel and dime taxes via ticketing and fines. That the City is preparing for an economic downturn should hopefully give them pause before balancing the budget on the backs of small business and the middle class.