Sunday, December 21, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: Undoing Bloomberg's Bus Bust

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Mayor de Blasio is continuing a mini-war with his predecessor, pushing through a retroactive raise for private school bus drivers, who took a salary beating in the final year of the Bloomberg administration.

De Blasio – with the help of the City Council – is allocating $42 million in extra money to private bus companies so that they can restore the cut salaries of more experienced drivers.

By one estimate, veteran drivers used to make up to $47,000 annually while new drivers got $31,000. But under a new deal pushed through by Team Bloomberg, all drivers were getting about $24,000, according to their union. A drivers strike against the new contract last year ended disastrously – but with the union’s supporters noting that a new administration in City Hall could undo the deal.

And that’s exactly what’s happening. But the giveback wasn’t something that came up in the just-completed budget process with its many checks and balances; it instead was fast-tracked by City Hall this month and approved by the City Council yesterday.

Even supporters of the move in the Council questioned the legality of it.

“I feel we are opening up this the Council and this city to a lawsuit," said Councilwoman Inez Dickens, who then voted for the bill.

"In the end, I will vote yes. But I share similar concerns about whether or not this is the correct route to go," said Councilman Corey Johnson.

While the pay cuts may seem unfair, it’s important to remember that these are the employees of private companies that are hired by the city – and not public workers. The de Blasio administration is essentially pushing its “living wage” bill onto a new class of employees who aren’t included under the legislation. And the money that’s being used to pay the drivers is coming from an emergency contingency fund that the Department of Education set aside for events like hurricanes and blizzards.

It’s a dangerous precedent to undo the sealed deals of one’s predecessor because it puts things back on the table long after they should have been put away. But if you’re going to put things in reverse, do it during the very-public budget process – rather than in the dog days of summer.

Bob Hardt

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