(The Center Square) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday unveiled a revised $89.3 billion budget proposal, one that he said comes in $6 billion lower than his preliminary plans in February because of revenue losses from the economic shutdown.
De Blasio said that thanks to $2.7 billion in budget cuts, a $4 billion withdrawal from the city’s reserve funds and about $2 billion in aid from the federal government, the budget would be balanced, but he warned that with so much still unknown about the timing of the end of the coronavirus crisis, it was imperative for federal officials to look into providing more fiscal assistance.
“We need the federal government to make up all lost revenue, period,” de Blasio said. “We can’t achieve new revenue in any coherent fashion at this point. We can only get revenue from the federal government. State government's in no position to give us revenue. The federal government’s done over $2 trillion [in stimulus packages] already, of course they can make up our budget gap.”
Of the city’s $2.7 billion in cuts, $2 billion comes from a directive to all the sub-agencies of the city to cut their own budgets. That includes $508 million in education cuts over this year and the next, $395 million in cuts to health and social services, and $156 million to infrastructure and transportation, among a number of other departmental cuts.
“On the capital side, a lot is being delayed, things we want to do and believe in,” the mayor said, “I’m someone who started the initiative and I believe in deeply, to put in air conditioners in all our classrooms. But things like that just inherently have to wait compared to food, shelter, safety, health. There are things that have to wait. The capital spending, it will happen eventually, but a lot of it is going to be delayed.”
The budget also has to account for an $800 million reduction in funding from the state related to its own budget woes.
De Blasio argued that Congress had failed to properly support states and municipalities so far in doling out three rounds of relief funding for the nation, noting that of $2.2 trillion in total relief, airlines had received $58 billion in funding, while New York City had only received $1.4 billion in direct aid.
He argued in favor of a package proposed by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he said would have $150 billion in direct aid to states and municipalities. But he said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was holding up the package, a fact he said he had discussed Wednesday with President Donald Trump.
“Let’s be clear, if President Trump raises his voice, the Republican Senate will follow, period,” de Blasio said. “Haven't heard his voice yet. I want to give him an opportunity to do the right thing. So President Trump, here’s my appeal to you. Help us back on our feet. Tell Mitch McConnell that we need … aid directly to New York City, directly to New York state, so we can keep providing the help that people need. … It’s on you, Mr. President.”
The mayor emphasized that with the crisis still ongoing and no certainty about its endpoint, there was no real way to know exactly what the budget will actually look like in the months and years ahead.
“We don’t know when this crisis ends,” he said. “We do know it will end, that much we can say, thank God. But we don’t know when, we don’t know how, and we know that the impact that’s been made on people continues to grow, and we know that the loss of revenue could be even greater. So it’s a very sobering situation.”