A Budget for the People
by John C. Liu
May 02, 2013 | 1704 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every year, the mayor and the City Council engage in a budget dance. The mayor unveils his proposed budget, claiming that “there is just not enough money to go around.” The council members quickly denounce the mayor’s cuts and demand that “vital” services be restored. Finally, the two sides reach a last-minute compromise.

This dance focuses only on the up to $400 million in cuts, which is in fact only a small fraction of the $70 billion budget - less than half of one percent.

It’s time for this absurd dance to end.

Government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. So I’m introducing what I call “The People’ Budget” - a wholesale review of the budget process that contains about 70 new budget proposals overall.

The People’s Budget is predicated on the principal that the current reality in New York City is unacceptable, and that we need to reassess our budget priorities to restore government of the people, by the people, and for the people – for all New Yorkers.

While it’s true that a significant portion of the budget – about $38 billion – is fixed, that leaves about $32 billion in discretionary funds.

The first priority of The People’s Budget is education, including the creation of a universal preschool for three-year-olds.

The second is public safety. We would put an end to Stop and Frisk and hire 5,000 more police officers – restoring the police force to its size in the pre-Bloomberg days.

Another proposal would set aside $3.7 billion to create 100,000 units of affordable housing.

The People’s Budget is realistic. We can create better schools, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing.

Too many New Yorkers have not been able to realize the New York City dream. It’s unacceptable that four out of five NYC public school students do not graduate from college, and that nearly half of all New Yorkers pay rents that are unaffordable, and that minimum-wage jobs don’t pay enough to support a single person, let alone adults with kids to feed.

This can change. Through revenue growth, cost savings, community investments, and tax relief, we can keep the New York City Dream alive.

We also need to reduce taxes. The People’s Budget would create $1.2 billion in new revenues by asking those making over $500,000 to contribute more to the city they live in – while cutting taxes for the 99 precent of New Yorkers who make less than that.

Some will argue that wealthy New Yorkers will flee the city if we ask them to pay their fair share, or that big corporations will leave if we fail to lavish tax breaks and subsidies on them.

But I believe that New York is not a commodity. People all over the world – even very wealthy people - are moving here because they want to become New Yorkers. And businesses are relocating here because they want to take advantage of the unique opportunities of New York City.

So check out The People’s Budget at comptroller.nyc.gov. Together, we can keep the New York City Dream alive.

John C. Liu is New York City Comptroller.

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