NYC’s coming budget crisis: Mayor must start making responsible cuts in face of pandemic’s fiscal impact

Trim and cut.
Trim and cut.(Luiz C. Ribeiro/for New York Daily News)

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
It’s an old saw the City Council and Mayor de Blasio, staring at an $8.7 billion deficit, either haven’t heard or just don’t understand. Why else would they suggest the city borrow to fill that yawning budget hole? Similar moves nearly bankrupted the city in the 1970s.
Instead, both sides of City Hall should scour the books and identify real, recurring savings, including in retiree pensions and health care costs that are eating up ever-larger shares of spending. Instead, the mayor’s counting on $17 billion from Washington that’s unlikely to fully materialize. Even if the feds ride to the rescue, and that’s a huge if, the money won’t come close to filling multi-billion dollar deficits in the out years.
This is an emergency. Already, 22% of the city workforce is unemployed. Property, income and sales tax revenues have plummeted, and will fall further off the cliff if businesses cut back on Manhattan commercial office space as more employees telecommute. Worsening the hurt, wealthy residents who fled the five boroughs could decide to stay put wherever they’re quarantined.
The mayor must demand all agencies identify 4% to 5% savings targets. And claw back raises for top aides, like the $2 million he’s spent recently. Then, with his own house in order, he should ask labor to renegotiate contracts, at least delaying planned pay raises. That’s far less painful than the layoffs and pay cuts private-sector employees face.
Cut government responsibly or we’ll all bleed.

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