New York City is in crisis. Nearly a third of the city is unemployed, according to a New School analysis, businesses are shuttering, residents are fleeing.

Things won’t magically “go back to normal,” at least not without help. Government cannot casually wait for a COVID-19 vaccine while the quality of life plummets. Mayor de Blasio and the City Council must act now, to revitalize Gotham and lay the groundwork for a full recovery.

The Post asked experts what politicians can — must — do to save the city.

REDUCE THE SIZE OF CITY GOVERNMENT

E.J. McMahon, senior fellow, Empire Center for Public Policy

With massive budget deficits looming, Mayor de Blasio’s post-pandemic plan boils down to hoping for a stopgap federal bailout and asking Albany for permission to issue billions in deficit bonds.

This won’t solve the problem. New York needed a much leaner, more efficient public sector even before the novel coronavirus blew a hole in its tax base.

De Blasio has added more than 33,000 employees to the city payroll since 2013, the Citizens Budget Commission notes. Cutting even half those positions — bringing city employment back to its 2008 peak under Michael Bloomberg — would save well over $1 billion a year in salary and benefits. Seeking better deals on health insurance and requiring city workers to contribute at least minimally to health insurance and Medicare premiums (like virtually everyone paying their salaries) could save roughly $800 million a year, the Independent Budget Office has estimated.

But municipal unions don’t have a track record of simply volunteering givebacks, even to save jobs. History suggests they will fight tooth and nail to protect everything they have, even in a fiscal crisis.

To win real concessions, the mayor needs leverage — and he can get it from the state Financial Control Board (FCB), created in the mid-1970s to deal with the city fiscal crisis and still in existence as a background watchdog.

The city should adopt a more (justifiably) pessimistic revenue forecast and declare to the FCB that its budget gaps can’t be fully closed without deficit bond financing. The board then will have grounds for asking the Legislature to reinstate a control period and authorize an across-the-board wage freeze.

As the late former Mayor Ed Koch recognized, the FCB can be a mayor’s best friend, by ordering bigger budget cuts than politicians have the nerve to suggest in public.

That might — just might — lead to serious labor bargaining over more palatable alternatives.

This scenario would require a strong partnership between the mayor and the FCB’s chairman, Gov. Cuomo — who until recently showed little interest in the control board. Recently, however, he appointed three close and trusted advisers to the panel. The mayor shouldn’t see this as threat but an opportunity.

© 2020 New York Post

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

A Forced March to Electrification for New York?

The New York State Assembly adopted a bill requiring all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the state be “zero-emissions” by 2035. If electric cars are the future...New York had better get ready. Read More

Cuomo’s caving will cost the rich even more

The only question left was how far the once-domineering, now politically damaged governor would go to make a deal. We now know the answer: pretty far. Read More

The addiction Cuomo can’t quit: The governor keeps giving the state’s hospitals what they want

The lobbying powerhouse behind two of Gov. Cuomo’s nastiest scandals is back with another big request from Albany. Read More

New York Needs to Release Its Covid Data

Albany has kept New Yorkers in the dark for months about Covid-related deaths in nursing homes, and someone finally needs to pull back the curtain and let the sun shine in. The necessary reckoning should start with a bold exercise in transparent governmen Read More

Democrats’ bid to turn screws on New York’s richest

Just a year after the Empire State was clobbered by the coronavirus, New York’s Legislature confronts an embarrassment of revenue riches. Read More

NY officials covered up more than just nursing-home deaths

Gov. Cuomo’s coverup of nursing-home deaths revealed the stunning lengths to which he and his staff go to keep damning information from the public. But few New Yorkers may realize that such behavior is actually standard operating procedure throughout mu Read More

Will Cuomo Crisis Open Door to Fiscal Madness?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political meltdown couldn’t have happened at a more critical time in New York state’s budget process. Read More

It was like pulling teeth: On Tish James’ nursing home report and Gov. Cuomo playing games with the truth

The most shocking thing about state Attorney General Letitia James’ report on the coronavirus pandemic in New York nursing homes is what it did not contain: a definitive count of how many thousands of residents have died of COVID. Apparently, not even the highest-ranking legal official in the state was able to pry that elusive number out of the Cuomo administration’s clutches. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!