There's a caution sign being held up in front Mayor de Blasio's feel-good budget as the aptly-named Moody's rating agency labeled the mayor's fiscal plan "credit negative" while City Comptroller Scott Stringer said that general accounting practices aren't being followed when it comes to retroactive pay for teachers.
Hearing Stringer, the mayor's team is now promising to shift $725 million into this year's budget for the teachers' raises – rather than spread them out over the next four years.
While the budget squabble is a relatively minor one, it might be worth it for City Hall to nip any habit in the bud of buying now and paying later – something that works only as long as the economy is performing adequately.
From "saving" Long Island College Hospital to finding health-care savings with the teachers union (which still most be identified), there has been a tendency in this young administration of declaring victory while the peace treaty is still being hammered out. Everyone likes a feel-good story but it can't be a fairy tale.
From library spending to improving public housing to his push on after-school programs, the mayor has plenty of things for people to like in his budget plan. But he needs a "Nixon in China" moment by also talking tough about fiscal priorities and a whack with the budget axe against something, anything, would send a powerful message to the political class. As the months pass in City Hall, it's important for the mayor to play Santa and deliver the goods but it's ultimately going to be more pressing for him to sometimes take off the costume and be the adult in the room.