NEW YORK - Mayor Bill de Blasio warned state lawmakers Thursday that the city’s finances are in bad shape because of the coronavirus – and that things could even get worse if proposed cuts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo go into effect.
Speaking virtually to legislators at a budget hearing, de Blasio said the city has lost $10.5 billion in revenue because of the crisis created by COVID-19. In addition, de Blasio said, the city has spent more than $6 billion in costs linked to the pandemic, $700 million of which will not be reimbursed by the federal government.
“I am very concerned about some very substantial and painful cuts in the state executive budget,” the mayor said in his prepared remarks.
“The budget proposes cuts and cost shifts to New York City of $310 million fiscal year ‘21, and $309 million in fiscal year ‘22. On top of that, the executive budget proposes cuts to public health.”
Taxing the wealthy is one of the biggest debates in this year’s budget negotiations between legislators and the Governor, with most Democratic lawmakers wanting to tax high-income earners to help close a $15 billion budget gap.
While Cuomo says he is amenable to an increase, he wants the bulk of the funds to plug the deficit to come from a federal aid package. When it comes to taxation, the discussions have largely focused on raising the personal income tax.
In a statement late Thursday, New York State budget director spokesman Freeman Klopott said, “Let’s be clear: In the midst of a global pandemic and the worst economic downturn in generations, funding in the Executive Budget for New York City goes up $1.3 billion, including a 13% increase for schools – significantly higher than the statewide average. Raising taxes is best done at the federal level so as not to pit one state against another and right now we all need to keep our focus on Washington to ensure the critical resources it is poised to deliver to the state and the City are fair.”
Advocates, however, have been pushing for a series of more complicated tax increases, including a stock transfer tax, which would impose a fee on all stock transactions.
In a surprise move, de Blasio came out against the stock transfer proposal under questioning from lawmakers.
“I think it should be done federally,” the mayor said. “I agree that there is a problem of one state and other states don’t it creates an imbalance and could have a counterproductive outcome in terms of what we want. We all want jobs here. We all want business to do well here. We all want revenue here.”
The mayor also said that while he supports converting vacant office space into housing, he does not support Governor Cuomo’s plan because it would usurp local land-use laws.
De Blasio also said he has concerns about Cuomo’s plan to redevelop Manhattan’s West Side, including the expansion of the Javits Convention Center which would override city building codes and enforcement.
Finally, the mayor asked lawmakers to overhaul the New York City Board of Elections through legislation. The Board was beset by problems with early voting and voting by mail last fall.