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Morning Spew

Adams Austerity Budget Brings the Pain

Money for police, but less for libraries. Heavy-handed symbolism of that nature and so forth.

10:02 AM EST on January 13, 2023

(Benny Polatseck / Mayoral Photography Office)

Mayor Eric Adams released his executive budget for the City on Thursday, kicking off what is shaping up to be the most contentious City budget fight in more than a decade. To make up for the winding down of federal pandemic relief funds, Adams has called for cuts to services like libraries and funding for nonprofits, and continues to push down the headcount for the City's workforce by eliminating some 8,600 positions over the next two years. With more than 23,000 City positions still vacant, the net result is that agencies like the Department of Transportation are far less capable of creating safer streets, and the Human Resources Administration is less able to process food stamps quickly or find more permanent housing to get families out of the City's shelter system.

Funding for police, however, would remain flat, while zero progress has been made in recent years on cutting down on the use of overtime by the NYPD, which has sapped City coffers by hundreds of millions each year. (Adams promised to cut the use of overtime in half while campaigning for office, but overtime costs have only gone up.) 

The budget comes after a first year in office during which Adams pushed through cuts to public schools and oversaw an exodus of City workers that has left the City far less capable of responding to the urgent crisis of skyrocketing rents and resulting homelessness among New Yorkers. For much of the past six months, Adams has also placed much of the blame for the City's possible budget gap on migrants being bused to New York City by governors of other states, and the cost of social services the migrants need once they arrive in the city. 

The City Council, still burned from last year's disastrous process where members of the council's progressive caucus signed off on school budget cuts and then immediately tried to undo them, has signaled that it's ready to fight Adams on cuts and take a far more adversarial attitude than last year's hug-fest. Both City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and the council's budget chair Justin Brannan slammed the proposed budget, and pledged to fight for more funding for social services as the City tries to pass a budget by June. The city comptroller, Brad Lander, issued a statement which cautioned that while the City has not yet built up enough reserves to weather a possible recession (comptrollers love to build up reserves!), it still shouldn't pursue cuts that would hurt its economic growth in the future, like those proposed for universal 3-K, CUNY, and libraries. Both Lander and Adams called on the state legislature to up their financial commitment to New York City, especially to help pay for services for arriving migrants. 

While Adams has unleashed his apocalyptic budget, it's unclear whether New York City is actually facing a possible budget crisis or just general uncertainty about what lies ahead. Still, the Adams administration has viewed it as an opportunity to push for an austerity agenda that severely hampers City government just when many of the poorest New Yorkers need it the most. Will the City Council swallow the pill again? We'll soon find out. 

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