Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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Hearings Begin on Mayor's First Budget

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The beginning of budget hearings at the City Council Wednesday were a stark contrast to the sometimes heated testimony that occurred during the Bloomberg administration, as the Council did not have much criticism of the mayor's $74 billion plan. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

There was no finger pointing or angry exchanges. Instead, at Wednesday's budget hearing, there were muffins.

The muffins topped off Dean Fuleihan's first appearance before the City Council as the city's new budget director, a far more cordial exchange than talk of budget cuts during the previous Council and administration.

"The dynamic clearly has changed. It's not as contentious," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "We have a mayor that comes from the City Council."

"Moving forward, this is completely a turn of page when it comes to past budget hearings," said City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras of Queens.

The topics: working together, coordination, and the Council and mayor's "shared agenda."

"The process and decisions that we make together, those shared values and those decisions that we come to together, will set a framework of cooperation for many years to come," Fuleihan said.

The budget director did not have as many specifics when it came to the substance, like what exactly the administration would ask for from unions that all have expired contracts.

"At the top of the list is the unprecedented failure of the previous administration to resolve over 150 collective bargaining agreements with the entire city workforce," Fuleihan said.

The only specific he gave was taking a closer look at how union members pay for their health care.

"What we need is high-quality health care," Fuleihan said. "We don't want in any way sacrifice the delivery of health care, but the mayor's point is, we have to find savings."

The expired contracts have the potential to blast a multi-billion-dollar hole in de Blasio's fiscal plan.

For that reason, City Comptroller Scott Stringer urged the mayor on Wednesday to resolve all 100-plus agreements before the budget is due.

"You don't want a situation where we can't get this done by June and then outside forces influence this process," Stringer said.

The hearing kicks off the start of budget negotiations, which will go on until the end of June. It's unclear if they will remain this cordial.

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