Guest Op-Ed: A budget for the people

May 13, 2013 Editorial Staff
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Every year, the mayor and the City Council engage in a budget dance. The mayor unveils his proposed budget, claiming “there is not enough money to go around.” The councilmembers denounce the mayor’s cuts and demand that “vital” services be restored. Finally, the two sides reach a last-minute compromise.

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

It’s time for this to end. So I’m introducing what I call “The People’ Budget” — a wholesale review of the budget process that contains about 70 new budget proposals.

The People’s Budget is predicated on the principal that we need to reassess our budget priorities to restore government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

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

It’s unacceptable that four out of five New York City public school students do not graduate from college, 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.

The first priority of The People’s Budget is education, including the creation of 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.

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 – while cutting taxes for 99 percent of New Yorkers.

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 are moving here because they want to become New Yorkers. And businesses are relocating here because they want to take advantage of the city’s unique opportunities.

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

John C. Liu is New York City comptroller.


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