Mayor Bill de Blasio's first preliminary budget gives little indication of how he plans to deal with the city's expired labor contracts. The $73.7 billion plan includes no money earmarked specifically for union raises. Meanwhile, the mayor is lashing out at his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, saying he is to blame for leaving the city with all its labor contracts expired. Grace Rauh filed the following report.
The biggest budget question looming over City Hall is how Mayor Bill de Blasio is going to tackle negotiations with the city's labor unions. All 152 municipal unions are working with expired contracts and union leaders want retroactive pay raises for their nearly 300,000 members. The mayor says he is open to giving the unions back pay.
“I've said we won't take anything off the table,” said de Blasio.
But his first preliminary budget sets aside no money for that purpose. He is suggesting cost savings will make up the difference.
“If you find cost savings there’s lots of creative, interesting things you can do in this world,” he said.
The preliminary budget, though, does have money the mayor could wind up using to settle contracts, about $3 billion in surplus money. Some will go into a trust fund to pay for health benefits for retired city workers. Some will be used to boost spending in a variety of areas.
The mayor is pumping more money into homeless services and he is proposing to use $59 million to keep 20 fire companies open. He is also giving the NYPD an extra $52 million since it will stop charging the city's public housing agency for police services. His budget assumes the city will get the pre-K tax hike the mayor is lobbying for in Albany.
“There are no new broad based cuts,” said City Budget Director Dean Fuleihan.
De Blasio, though, is hardly thanking Mayor Michael Bloomberg for laying the groundwork for a budget that includes no cutbacks. Instead, he took aim at his predecessor for leaving him with with so many expired labor contracts.
“The previous administration was given an artificially high level of credit for management,” de Blasio said. “But the way they budgeted was not appropriate. You cannot ignore open labor contracts for years on end.”
Budget negotiations with the City Council will now get underway. A budget deal is due by the end of June.
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