(The Center Square) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday he would not raise property taxes in order to get approval from state leaders to borrow money to fill a $1 billion budget shortfall.
The pledge came a day before New York City must approve a budget for the fiscal year that starts Wednesday.
De Blasio, in response to a reporter’s question about the property tax issue, said it was “totally inaccurate” to say he was willing to raise taxes in order to get concessions from lawmakers. To the contrary, the mayor said he put it in writing that the city had no intention to do that.
“The State Assembly was there with us every step of the way,” he said. “I want to thank Speaker Carl Heastie and members of the Assembly. They were ready to come to the aid of New York City in our hour of need. The Senate was not. So, we move forward.”
Without the ability to borrow money or get COVID-19 relief funding from Washington, de Blasio has said that job cuts, up to 22,000, would happen in the fall.
“Hopefully, we can find a way with labor to avert layoffs,” de Blasio said. “It's not a given. If we can't find a way, then Oct. 1 is when that would begin.”
The mayor also openly questioned why the state might let other counties and agencies, including the Metropolitan Transit Authority, borrow but not the city that serves as the state’s economic engine.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that the state is ultimately liable for any borrowing by cities and, on Monday, he again expressed concern about how the city would be able to pay off any loans given the current economic uncertainties.
In addition, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, said Monday, that the transit authority wasn’t given blank-check power to take out bonds.
“They were given the ability to issue debt,” she said. “However, it has to be approved by the New York state budget director and by the MTA board. And they have not issued any debt to date. So there was a backstop and there's fiscal watchdogs who are going to make sure that anything that they do, that it's being done fiscally responsibly.”
Negotiations were still going on Monday as the city looked to rightsize a budget for a city decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions on businesses in recent months. In January, de Blasio unveiled a $95 billion spending plan, but the business closures and drop in tourism brought forth by the pandemic restrictions have forced city leaders to slash that by nearly 10 percent.
Those cuts include $1 billion to the New York City Police Department. The mayor said talks about that cut were still ongoing, but the NYPD would still be able to maintain the patrols needed to keep the city's residents safe.
“What I can tell you is we have found a plan that will keep the City safe, will achieve the billion dollars in savings, will allow us to redistribute money to youth programs and to communities that need it most,” de Blasio said. “Everything was with an eye to safety.”