Blink and you would have missed a $70 billion city budget deal that was announced last night by Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn – and sealed by their traditional kiss.
The Bloomberg-Quinn feel-good budgeting era stands in remarkable contrast to previous administrations when brinksmanship, angry rhetoric and a looming June 30th budget deadline all ruled the day. One year, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone reached such an impasse with Mayor Rudy Giuliani that he passed his own budget independently of the mayor.
Some of the positive budget zen stems from a rebounding national and local economy; Bloomberg has largely been able to avoid draconian moves and tax hikes that he had to temporarily employ in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Bloomberg's recent budgets haven't been crammed with goodies, but they've also skirted tough cuts that he has proposed earlier in the budgeting season, including firehouse closures.
While Quinn can point to the drama-free budgets as a sign that she's an adult who can get things done, she could also be sowing the seeds of her own budget weeds should she become mayor. Because city workers have been working without contracts for years, the next mayor is going to have to deal with some expensive raises. In addition, the just-negotiated budget counts on some "one-shot" revenue increases, including $300 million in the sale of new taxi medallions. But Quinn would surely prefer this year's tranquility to a messy budget fight with less than three months before the Democratic primary.
Sometimes it's good not to have a little political drama – but expect some next year when a new mayor and City Council Speaker will be picking up a can that was just quietly kicked down the road.