Bill de Blasio took steps both symbolic and substantive toward putting money behind his progressive agenda when he unveiled his preliminary 2015 budget on Wednesday.
The mayor’s presentation, delivered in the Blue Room at City Hall, was laced with invective about the Bloomberg administration and shadowed by uncertainty surrounding municipal labor contracts, decisions in Albany and federal aid.
“The budget must reflect a progressive agenda. It must reflect what New Yorkers needs right now,” the mayor said. “Ours is a progressive administration. Our budget will be a progressive budget—one that puts us on the road to giving hard-working New Yorkers a fair shot.”
De Blasio’s $73.7 billion budget plan includes money—starting in the current year and extending into fiscal 2015, which begins July 1—for a new NYPD inspector general and the implementation of an expanded paid sick-leave law.
He also ended a long-standing budget quirk that had the city’s public housing authority, NYCHA, which has been hobbled by funding cuts at all levels of government, paying the city for police services. That mov e will go a significant way to eliminating NYCHA’s operating deficit.
The de Blasio administration will also spend $1.3 million to upgrade two homeless shelters, including one that figured prominently in the December New York Times series about homelessness in Michael Bloomberg’s New York.
And under an agreement with Gov. Cuomo he’ll cap rent in HIV/AIDS housing at 30 percent of tenant income, something advocates have sought for years. (Jim Lister, a VOCAL-NY leader living with HIV/AIDS who pays 72 percent of his disability income towards rent, lauded this move in a statement: “I take 32 pills every day and have two and a half shelves full of medications in my kitchen. I don’t know how I would manage all of that and my other health needs if I was in a shelter, but that’s where I would end up if not for this agreement.”)
But those initiatives pale in size or importance to the UPK/after-school plan, which puts a $530 million question mark on both the revenue and expense side of the budget. Cuomo and Republicans who share control of the state Senate are resisting de Blasio’s calls for a tax on high-earners to fund the program.
As if the fight over that money weren’t enough to keep everyone busy, the mayor today called for the state to make good on a court ruling that found it had systematically underfunded city schools. His budget calls for an additional $500 million from the state.