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New York Post

 

NYC's Fiscal Future

October 27, 2009

By Nicole Gelinas

Leading up to next week’s election, City Comptroller Bill Thompson, the Demo cratic challenger, has done New Yorkers a disservice in not running a serious race on fiscal and economic issues. The city’s future depends on wise budgeting, and voters deserve some healthy competition to Mayor Bloomberg.

As the candidates face each other in their last debate tonight, the moderators should hold the mayor to his fiscal record -- and should ask Thompson why he’s chosen frivolity over facts.

Some suggested questions for Bloomberg:

* Mayor Bloomberg, you presided over the biggest economic boom that the city has ever seen. But you also presided over the biggest spending boom that modern New York has ever seen. When you took office, the portion of city spending paid by local taxpayers, as opposed to federal and state subsidies, was about $26.3 billion annually.

Today, it’s $41.5 billion, a 31 percent jump after inflation, and more than 20 percent higher, adjusted for population, than under Mayor John Lindsay. Much of that spending went to higher benefit costs for public employees, as well as for Medicaid.

Looking back, would it have been better to reform spending in the good times and use the extra money to modernize the city’s infrastructure and cut taxes, putting us in a much healthier position today?

* Pension and health-care costs for city workers will reach $13.6 billion this year, nearly a third of city tax revenues. You often say that these costs are “uncontrollable” -- that is, only Albany can pare down pension costs for future workers, and it’s hard to get health-cost savings from unions. But future pension costs are directly related to salaries, and, thanks to your contract agreements, wages and salaries are up more than 10 percent after inflation since your first budget.

In the future, would it be a good idea to refuse salary and wage increases to public employees until they agree to substantive benefit reforms? Have you ever considered using some of your personal fortune to run ads educating the public on how Albany must fix future pensions so that we have more money for infrastructure?

* Much of the federal stimulus money that New York got for this year and next went and will go to Medicaid. But New York’s Medicaid program is already the nation’s most expensive and is riddled with waste and fraud. It dwarfs savings we’ve achieved in cutting cash welfare rolls.

If you win a third term, will you pledge to work with Albany to cut Medicaid spending to an affordable amount while improving care? Has your administration done research into how much the program should cost taxpayers for good results?

Some suggested questions for Comptroller Thompson:

* In June, you attended a union protest against proposed layoffs in the Education Department’s non-teaching staff, promising the crowd that “we aren’t going to take this.” But under Bloomberg, education spending has risen by about 40 percent after inflation, to $21.8 billion. Most of that increase is because of teacher raises.

If you don’t want any layoffs in education, would you rather see teachers and other workers accept lower pay and benefits? Or should education be immune to cuts? Considering that education is more than a third of the total budget, how would you hold education harmless without hurting, say, policing?

* You have proposed a surtax on New Yorkers earning more than half a million dollars annually, as well as a commuter tax to close budget deficits. You’ve disparaged the mayor’s warnings about raising taxes on the wealthy. But the wealthiest 1 percent of New Yorkers already pay half of city income taxes.

Don’t you worry that higher taxes on the wealthy might drive them elsewhere, especially because they’re less wealthy than they were two years ago? Aren’t you also worried that a commuter tax would discourage companies from creating jobs in New York, especially because firms are already paying a new tax on their workers to the MTA?

* At another rally, you told supporters that “there’s something wrong in this city, because people have been ignored. Our community has been ignored . . . It is time that we had a mayor in City Hall who will stand up and fight for us.”

But the mayor certainly hasn’t ignored education, for example, or medical spending. Who do you think the mayor has “ignored” with his vastly higher spending?

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/nyc_fiscal_future_4auIbqjHzrgxNpfM84mehO

 

 
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