Municipal Government

Power to the People’s Budget

April 11, 2013

John Liu speaks at ABNY

John Liu (l.) and Bill Rudin


By Marc Bussanich

New York, NY—In the Rose Garden on Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled his $3.8 trillion 2014 budget. Back in the Big Apple, Comptroller John Liu revealed a series of proposals in a speech before the Association for a Better New York to stabilize the City’s budget and spare New Yorkers from the fanfare and ballyhoo that accompany annual budget proposals, threatening cuts and budget compromise.

“The Budget Dance” wastes invaluable time and energy over maintaining services on what turns out to be a sliver of the budget, about $400 million, or less than one-half of one percent of the City’s walloping $70 billion budget, said Liu.

He noted that a little more than half of the budget, about $38 billion, is untouchable—used to pay pension obligations, Medicaid recipients and debt service. But the nearly other half of the budget, $32 billion, is more discretionary and is a potential and formidable source for critical investments in social services, public safety and educational programs.

That $32 billion would be the basis for Liu’s The People’s Budget, which includes revenue growth, cost savings and new investments and would net nearly $15 billion over four years. The budget would help to restore and fulfill the more than 100-year old “The New York City Dream.”

“It’s time to stop dancing and create a budget that is of the people, by the people and for the people—a budget that reflects the people’s dream for better schools, safer neighborhoods and solid jobs,” Liu said.

The bulk of the money would be invested in education, such as early childhood programs, free breakfast in public school classrooms and an increase in the number of school counselors.

The People’s Budget has more than 70 proposals underpinning seven categories—revenue generation, smart government, public education, public safety, strong communities, economic security and tax relief.

On the revenue side, the highlights of Liu’s proposal includes reforming the personal income tax to bring in more than $1.2 billion from the City’s top 1 percent of filers making more than $500,000 annually. In addition, the budget would lower personal income taxes for 99 percent of the City’s filers.

On the cost savings side, Liu is recommending to bring more IT work in-house ($73 million), charge charter schools to use City facilities ($80 million) and collect $150 million more in Medicaid reimbursements. Some other cost savings measures include using in-house investment consultants to manage different asset classes of the five City’s public pension funds, reducing civil-rights violations (abolishing Stop-and-Frisk) and downsizing the Economic Development Corporation.  

Most members of the audience reacted coolly as Liu highlighted items in The People’s Budget, prompting one reporter to ask Liu how he would characterize the reception to his ideas.

“I talked the hard truth. I think a lot of the people here don’t necessarily appreciate my call for people making half a million of dollars a year paying a little bit more in city income taxes while giving the other 99 percent of New Yorkers a tax reduction. But it has to be said,” said Liu.

The People’s Budget is available for download via www.comptroller.nyc.gov

April 11, 2013

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