Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council are aiming to strike a handshake agreement on a city budget by Friday, three days before the state’s self-imposed deadline to complete its long overdue spending plan, according to people with knowledge of the budget process.
The rapidly approaching deadline had advocates crowding the steps of City Hall and lobbying councilmembers on Wednesday. At around noon, as the Council’s budget negotiating committee was set to meet, advocates for after-school programs sat on the sidelines as supporters of immigrant assistance programs packed the steps. A lobbyist for day care workers chatted with reporters.
Said Greg Faulkner, chief of staff to freshman Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera, in a phone interview: “You can’t walk through the hallway without people pouncing, which is what they should do.”
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Gov. Paterson has set a deadline of Monday, June 28 to complete the state budget that was supposed to be done by April 1. The lack of a firm state budget means the city must guess at how much state aid will come its way. The city budget proposal released by the mayor in May was based on the severe cuts included in the governor’s January spending plan: $493 million in school funding reductions and $1.3 billion in other cuts to the city.
The city must finalize a budget before the start of its fiscal year on July 1. Unlike the state, it cannot go past deadline, according to Independent Budget Office deputy director Doug Turetsky.
“It’ll all be over in a couple days,” said Neil Tepel, a lobbyist for AFSCME District Council 1707, which represents daycare workers.
The mayor’s budget included cuts like closing 20 fire companies, shutting day care centers and padlocking city pools. There was uncertainty Wednesday as to which of those cuts were still on the table, and which had been amended.
“I just heard that only two out of the 16 child care centers, will be saved so we’re very concerned about that,” said Esther Lok, the Assistant Director of Policy, Advocacy and Research at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.
The piecemeal way in which the state has made spending decisions this spring has added to the usual budget deadline confusion. While a full state budget hasn’t been passed, some parts of the state spending plan have been addressed in the short-term budget bills that have kept the state running despite the missed April 1 deadline.
But there is uncertainty over how those isolated budget decisions affect the full budget picture facing the city. For example, the state decided to restore funding for Title XX, which covers senior centers. But it is unclear if this restoration will spare any or all of the 50 centers that the mayor’s budget would close, since those cuts reflect a proposed massive reduction in a separate funding stream to the city, called Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM).
Some of those rallying at City Hall wanted the mayor not just to redirect cuts, but to avoid them. Protesting proposed cuts to the Immigrant Opportunity Initiative, a literacy program, SJ Jung of the MinKwon Center for Community Action in Flushing called on the mayor “to adopt more revenue-generating measures,” but did not specify how more money might be raised.
Borough delegations were to meet Wednesday afternoon—likely into the evening. The delegations then lobby the speaker for their funding priorities, and the speaker decides which issues to bring to the table in final talks with the mayor.