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Budget Breakdown: Speaker, Mayor Continue Yearly Budget Dance

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Day in and day out, community groups are protesting on the steps of City Hall, blasting proposed cuts to city programs. It's a spectacle that happens almost every June. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report, the first in a series about the city budget.

When he was mayor, Rudolph Giuliani almost annually took on libraries and museums.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's target has been fire companies, which he has attempted to cut the past four years in a row.

Regardless of who the mayor is or the City Council speaker, whether it was in 2000 or 2011, the threats come, groups take to the steps of City Hall and the City Council comes to the rescue.

It's known as the "budget dance."

"The budget process has deteriorated into what some have called a budget dance where every year, every mayor basically takes out of the budget all of the programs the council restores in the budget the year before," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in 2006.

Critics say it is a way for the mayor to control the purse strings, intentionally slashing out the council's pet programs, knowing the council, using the tiny sliver of the budget it has to work with, will only be able to save those programs.

Quinn pledged to reform the process. She has been able to guarantee funding for a handful of programs, like three-day library service.

“Speaker Quinn hasn't ended the budget dance," said Randy Mastro, who served as deputy mayor under Giuliani. "She’s been doing a waltz with the mayor for the past decade. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing."

As Quinn eyes a run for mayor and other council members eye citywide office, they could claim credit for coming to the rescue.

"As someone who is considering running for higher office, obviously there are politics at play here," said City Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn.

Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone said coordination is key.

"It’s a dance that, if two people are dancing together, it becomes a beautiful thing and it works," he said. "But if two people are stepping on each other’s feet, it’s a horror."

For the most part, observers say this dance has been relatively graceful for both Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn. After all, it takes two to tango.

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