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City & State


Quinn's Fiscal Crunch

July 12, 2013

By Nicole Gelinas

When Mayor Bloomberg gave his final budget speech last month, for the fiscal year that started July 1, he didnt hog the stage. He ceded most of his time to the woman standing to his left: New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Standing outside City Hall on Sunday, June 23, Bloomberg praised Quinn, noting her “effective leadership.” On dealing with the motley crew of Council members Quinn leads, he commiserated: “Chris, it is never easy,” he said. “We owe you a debt of gratitude.”

Quinn was happy to return the nice words, telling the mayor: “We want to thank you … for being a great partner for us.”

Quinn may hope that her position as Bloombergs fiscal partner helps her with voters worried about spending and taxes, but Bloombergs fiscal inheritance is as much a liability as it is an asset.

Following the speech, Quinn did what she does every year. She took political credit for protecting daycare slots, firehouses and library hours.

In this years budget, the mayor gave her a particularly valuable primary-season gift: $71 million for public housing.

Quinn said that by winning back those dollars, the New York City Housing Authority would “avert 325 layoffs” and “avoid the closures of nearly 60 senior and community centers.”

The money may help Quinn plug a political deficit on the left. As a former tenant activist, she has made “affordable”— government-subsidized—housing a key campaign issue.

Yet she has endured boos at mayoral forums from advocates who dont think shes done enough.

Now shes brought home some bacon—while avoiding the fact that the average public-housing rent—$436 monthly—cant cover aging buildings upkeep.

Quinn went further, though, and embraced all aspects of the mayors budgeting.

She sounded just like Bloomberg. “Other cities in the country are still suffering badly,” she said, because of the 2008 recession. But “the forward-thinking decisions we made … in the boom years … allowed us to avoid the more painful layoffs and cuts. … We put money aside in my early term as speaker.”

Noting that the budget “does not rely on one-shots,” she concluded: “Were not leaving the next council and the next administration on bad financial footing.”

This is stock Bloomberg—but wrong.

New Yorks fiscal problems have little to do with the 2008 crash. The city needs a permanent Wall Street bubble to spend what it does.

Since Quinn became Speaker, city spending has risen 39.3 percent (inflation has risen 19.3 percent), to $53.4 billion. Most of that extra spending has gone toward two things—public-worker pension and healthcare benefits. Theyve risen 59.8 percent, from $10.6 billion to $17 billion annually.

Quinns reference to the pre-2008 budget surplus, too, is incorrect. True, the city built up $8 billion. But that was mostly to start prefunding about $88 billion in future payments the city owes for retiree healthcare, as the city already pre-funds pensions.

Now, that surplus is gone. But we havent pared down healthcare promises.

Plus: what to do about retroactive raises for union workers, whose contracts are expired?

Raises would cost nearly $8 billion, yet Quinn hasnt said if shed approve them as mayor. She should tell primary voters that by signing off on eight budgets with no money set aside for such raises, shes implicitly said “no.”

Quinn could have used her time to gently warn New Yorkers of the permanent fiscal crunch (even the mayor sometimes does this). Chronic budget woes are the reason the NYPD has lost more than 5,000 officers over Bloombergs years.

Instead, shes chosen to own next years—and the next mayors—$2 billion deficit.

She leaves herself open to criticism.

Sure, candidates like Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio hit City Halls latest budget from the left—for not spending enough.

Original Source:



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