Mayor Michael Bloomberg has joined Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in advocating an increase in the state minimum wage. Unlike Silver, Bloomberg in his State of the City message was at least willing to acknowledge that the minimum wage discourages hiring–specifically, that it “can reduce youth employment.” His solution? More government-subsidized summer job programs. Because, after all, “the genius of the free market is not always perfect.” (But it comes pretty close!)
The Citizens Budget Commission has offered its take on New York City’s budget for fiscal year 2012, which started last Friday.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group of labor unions, have broached the idea of tapping a union-controlled health care slush fund to prevent 4,100 scheduled scheduled teacher layoffs and 20 firehouse closures proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as part of New York City’s budget for the fiscal year that begins in two weeks.
NYC's current budget outlook
The money in question (estimated at a half-billion dollars in all, technically known as the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund) is a rainy-day reserve within a larger pot of 81 different union-administered “welfare funds,” into which the city contributes about $1 billion a year. The funds pay for benefits such as prescription drugs, optical and dental care, and other extras above and beyond services covered by the employee health insurance coverage.
Teacher and firefighter unions obviously would lean towards favoring such a move, but District Council 37, the largest municipal union, reportedly is opposed. ** UPDATE: Unions today reportedly shot down the deal at a private meeting of the Municipal Labor Council. **
Amid speculation that passage of a property tax cap covering most of New York State will hinge on the fate of New York City’s rent regulations, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has shot down a proposal to cap taxes on some city apartment buildings. He claimed, among other things, that the city’s property taxes are “low compared to the rest of the state.” But this is true only of owner-occupied single- and two-family homes. The city’s taxes on apartments are actually quite high by any standard.
The Post has a good editorial today on Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to cut pension costs by taking away a “bonus” check from uniformed workers who have already retired:
[W]hile the mayor has standing to ask for relief, the notion is fanciful, if not fantastical: Albany simply won’t single out police and fire retirees.
Nor should it.
Many if not most New York City teachers will continue receiving automatic longevity pay increases despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement today that he will “eliminate raises” for them in the next budget.
In fact, as illustrated in the following chart (provided by the mayor’s press office), city teachers are eligible for annual pay hikes — above and beyond any base pay increase — during nine of their first 10 consecutive years, and 14 of their first 22 consecutive years. For example, quite apart from any base salary increase, a rookie teacher entering his or her second year is entitled to a longevity increase of 6.4 percent. An eighth-year teacher receives an increase of 11.6 percent, and a teacher moving into his or her twentieth consecutive year receives an increase of 11.5 percent. (Go here for more details on the city’s teacher pay schedule.)
Nicole dissects Mayor Bloomberg’s preliminary 2011 budget in a Post op-ed today. Her key point: while news coverage of what the Times headlined as a “grim budget” has concentrated heavily on the mayor’s proposed cuts, Bloomberg actually is relying much more heavily on a $2.9 billion revenue surplus created by the latest Wall Street bubble (call it the post-bubble bubble) to close a projected $4.1 billion budget gap.
New York City’s independent budget office (IBO) thinks that Gotham will take in $1.3 billion more than the mayor is projecting over the rest of this fiscal year and next. The extra cash will alleviate some pressure on the city’s projected $4.1 billion deficit (itself already revised downward once from $4.9 billion by the mayor’s own budget office). (more…)
Fresh from a key court victory, Albany’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), via its subsidiary, the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), yesterday approved the issuance of up to $800 million in bonds for the construction of the Atlantic Yards basketball venue, sponsored by developer Bruce Ratner.
What is state and city taxpayers’ obligation here? (more…)
My op-ed in today’s New York Post explains why—and how—the Paterson administration should declare a fiscal emergency and seek to impose a three-year freeze on all state and local employee salaries in New York. This would save taxpayers statewide at least $2 billion next year alone, I estimate.