Eric Adams proposes $98 billion budget with fixed funding for police

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Mayor Eric Adams, who won in November, spent his first weeks in office rocked by a series of violent crimes in New York, including the murder of two police officers.

On Wednesday, Mr Adams had the opportunity to seize the initiative and detail his vision for the city, using his first executive budget proposal to show his intention to cut some of the city’s free spending – cutting funding from most city agencies and ostensibly avoiding an increase in the police budget. He argued that he could improve public safety without increasing police spending by moving officers from offices to the streets.

“We are going to redeploy our workforce, we are going to make sure that everyone who is supposed to be on the streets doing their job is doing their job, and then we will do the analysis if we need to invest more money in that. Mr. Adams said at a press conference at City Hall.

Mr. Adams’ $98.5 billion spending plan marked a break from his predecessor, Bill de Blasio. Mr. Adams called for a gradual reduction in a municipal workforce that had reached an all-time high under Mr. de Blasio, proposing to cut 10,000 workers through attrition and vacancies. The mayor also asked most city agencies to cut spending by 3% and proposed adding about $1 billion to the city’s reserve funds.

He stopped several agencies from making 3% budget cuts, including the corrections department, which is dealing with a crisis at the Rikers prison complex, and the health department, which is overseeing the pandemic response.

Mr Adams said the city faced “mixed economic signals” as it recovered from the pandemic. He said he was worried about high unemployment and workers delaying their return to work. He said he spoke with dozens of business leaders on Wednesday morning and urged them to bring workers back immediately.

“New York City can’t run away from home,” he said, adding, “It’s time to get back to business.”

But after months of prolonged economic decline, the mayor said the city expects it will receive $1.6 billion more in tax revenue in the current fiscal year than originally projected, due to taxes on higher than expected personal and business income, sales and transaction taxes. .

Higher property tax values ​​contributed to a $726 million increase in revenue for the next fiscal year.

Mr Adams said his budget proposal fulfilled his campaign wish to find savings, and some budget experts agreed. Andrew Rein, chairman of the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group, said the proposal included “significant, welcome and refreshing initial steps in the right direction”, including “reducing unnecessary vacancies”.

On keeping police spending flat, Mr Rein said: “He is exactly right on that point. I think that’s the right approach.

In the summer of 2020, New York City was among many re-examining the role of police following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A fierce debate divided the city council before it finally transferred about $1 billion from the police department.

Mr Adams, a former police captain who took office in January, said he disagreed with efforts to defund the police and would keep police numbers at around 35,000 for the moment. He seemed open to increasing police funding in the future if needed.

“I will do nothing that will impede the safety of New Yorkers,” he said.

Mr. Adams’ budget is similar in scope to the current budget, which is around $107 billion, slightly more than the total cost of Mr. Adams’ spending plan when adjusted to include all obligations. outstanding expenditures and federal contributions.

A key part of Mr. de Blasio’s legacy was his expansion of the city’s budget and its workforce. Its final budget was more than $25 billion higher than its first budget in 2014; the city’s workforce grew to over 325,000 employees, its highest level ever.

Union leaders, who may object to job losses and who must negotiate new contracts with Mr. Adams, have been uncharacteristically quiet. A major police union, the Police Benevolent Association, and District Council 37, the largest civil servants union, both declined to comment on the budget Wednesday night. Mr Adams, who was heavily backed by unions in the election, could have appeased them by noting in his budget proposal that he planned to eliminate $500 million in unidentified labor savings in future budgets.

Mr Adams argued that his budget plan focused on ‘fairness, justice and security’ and called for ‘an urban renaissance unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes’.

The budget proposal included funding for a summer youth program to provide 100,000 jobs, public transit cuts for low-income New Yorkers and the expansion of a tax credit for poor New Yorkers – something Mr. Adams promised to do on the campaign trail. The city will also face sizable deficits in the coming years, starting with about $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2024.

Kathryn Wylde, president of a leading business group, the Partnership for New York City, praised Mr. Adams’ approach.

“The business community believes Eric is heading in the right direction by toeing the line on spending increases and focusing on critical issues like public safety, youth employment and mental health,” he said. she declared.

One of the few agencies to see increased spending was the Correctional Service, whose budget Mr. Adams proposed to increase the budget to $1.2 billion from around $800 million. Mr. Adams supports Rikers’ plans to shut down and he has proposed more immediate changes to reduce violence there.

Mr. Adams included funding for other priorities: about $25 million to create more child care spaces through a property tax abatement for homeowners; $30 million to conduct health screenings and home visits for first-time mothers; and $13 million to support youth aging out of foster care.

Mr. Adams announced a commitment to funnel $75 million into an existing program for poor New Yorkers to have half-price MetroCards — a sum less than Council President Adrienne Adams had asked for, but more than the city had spent. About 260,000 people have signed up for the program, which subsidizes subway and bus tickets for New Yorkers whose incomes are below the federal poverty level.

In the coming months, Mr. Adams must negotiate the budget with the city council, which has many new members. The mayor and council are required to reach a final budget agreement by July 1.

Ms Adams, the council chair, and Justin Brannan, the chair of the finance committee, issued a joint statement calling the mayor’s proposal a “promising start” and saying they would fulfill their role by holding hearings. Their goals, they said, were similar: “fairness, fiscal responsibility and a strong recovery for New York City.”

If the budget is passed and spent as proposed, it could be the first city budget to reflect a reduction in overall city spending since 2009, according to the Independent Budget Office. The acquiescence of the Council is not a sure thing; its political makeup is to the left of Mr. Adams, and it may seek to increase spending in areas of social justice.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Adams announced $79 million for the summer jobs scheme, alongside Ms. Adams, who is not related to the mayor. He said ensuring young people have jobs will keep them busy and help reduce crime.

“Show me where you put your money, that’s where your priorities are,” Adams told a news conference on Tuesday. “We are opening the doors of opportunity to our sons and daughters in this city who have historically seen doors closed in their faces.”

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