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Issue of the Week
 
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WHAT CAN BE CUT?

Last year, the mayor and City Council were able to close a $5 billion budget with a moderate reduction in the budgets of city agencies, as well as taxes on cigarettes and cell phones, and by borrowing $1.5 billion. This year, the budget will likely be more painful, with more severe cuts and job layoffs.

Cuts

Some argue that the New York City government -- which has the fourth largest budget in the nation after the budgets of the federal government, California and New York State -- needs to spend less.

"The city government spends more than twice as much per capita, for example, as Los Angeles (including Los Angeles County) on municipal government and services," writes Steven Malanga in City Journal). "During the late nineties, as the economy boomed, the city went on an especially extravagant spending spree."

On the other hand, of the city's $42 billion budget, only about $14 billion can be cut, because the rest is made up of things like debt payments, pensions, and federal and state mandated programs that are not at the city's discretion.

Of that $14 billion, $9 billion goes to what are considered essential services, such as schools, fire, police, and sanitation, leaving just $5 billion to fund parks, libraries, senior citizen centers, youth programs and everything else.

Cuts to these kinds of programs are never popular.

"It is a matter of priorities, plain and simple," writes Bonnie Brower in City Project's report, No Sacred Cows or Sacrificial Lambs. "We can eliminate meals for grandmothers on weekends, deny at risk kids and immigrants access to libraries to expand their skills and minds, deny day care to poor working moms and those forced off welfare, and continue to watch our supply of affordable housing vanish."

Layoffs

In recent weeks, the mayor has begun what the Daily News called "the first real municipal downsizing in a decade."

The mayor instituted a hiring freeze for all city agencies and instructed the fire department not to bring in the next class of recruits. He laid off 103 members of the Sanitation Department and agreed to cut 450 jobs at the School Construction Authority and 150 jobs at the Board of Education facilities division over the next six months.

Some believe the mayor should go much further.

"The best place to start is to get rid of the estimated 17,500 jobs that the city has added in the past four years, reversing the attrition of the mid-nineties," argues Steven Malanga. However, others question whether the city will have the personnel to keep vital services running the way they should. And if the mayor has the political will to cut workers."

Others say the exact opposite. "Unless Mayor Bloomberg intends to reduce the numbers of teachers, police and firefighters, workforce cutbacks will not generate nearly the levels of savings the city needs," writes Mike Musuraca, who works for union local DC 37 of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees.

Next Page | What Taxes And Fees Can Be Raised?

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation, the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation’s public education programs.  Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.