Mayor Eric Adams has unveiled his draft budget for the fiscal year starting in July and, like last year, is proposing to cut spending.
We cannot take this “austerity” too seriously. Last year, similar cuts to Adams’ budget melted away before the final cut was signed in June.
There is something we need to take seriously, though, from what Adams didn’t emphasize in his budget presentation: Is the Mayor losing his mojo to crime?
The 2024 draft budget provides for $103.4 billion in total spending, including $77 billion funded by city taxpayers. (The rest comes from federal and state grants, mostly to education and health care.) That $77 billion represents 2.6% reject over this year’s spending, even without taking into account high inflation.
New York hasn’t seen a projected cut in spending since the financial crisis a decade and a half ago. So an outright offer of resignation is a dramatic opening move on the part of the mayor.
And some of that decline is sure to come as the city simply cuts another 4,300 jobs it can’t fill, on top of a similar cut this year. Adams argues that even though there are 23,000 vacancies throughout the city, the agencies can still get the job done. “Don’t believe them” if they say they can’t, he said. After Mayor Bill de Blasio added tens of thousands of new administrative positions to the payroll, this is theoretically true.
But it certainly doesn’t make much sense for Adams to add six-figure “top decarbonization officers across multiple agencies” when key law enforcement positions across the city are empty and the city clearly can’t handle his edgy quality. life’s challenges, including the new unregulated marijuana shops all over Times Square.
And a year ago, the mayor also proposed a thin budget – to keep spending almost unchanged. Instead, the final budget increased city tax spending by 6.7%. And while most of this was the work of the city council, Adams didn’t fight as hard, signing his agreement with lawmakers weeks early.
We can expect a similar result this year, especially since the teachers’ union badly embarrassed the council last year after council members tried to back out of the tiny education cuts they had agreed to with enrollment cuts.
And one would think that the same outcome would be acceptable this year as well: if spending increases another 6.7%, that would at least be in line with high inflation, which is still at 6.5% last month after as it hit double digits last year.
But: Much of the impact of high inflation isn’t even reflected in the budget—yet.
As Adams reminded reporters on Thursday, nearly all of the city’s more than 300,000 workers’ contracts have expired, and workers are demanding inflation-related raises. “These settlements will add billions of dollars to our city budget,” he said. “The bills will come due.”
It is hardly wise to distribute so much money in public; save for negotiations.
Another major item missing from the budget is an accurate accounting of the cost of housing for over 40,000 new migrants. “We’re doing a new analysis,” the mayor says.
So far, however, the administration has been less than transparent about why it should house midtown Manhattan migrants in hotels near the highest shelf, or build emergency tents and then close them immediately. Who benefits from these opaque contracts?
However, the last item missing from Adams’ second year budget is a heavy emphasis on crime. Adams mentioned crime in his presentation only to let us know that crime is on the decline and the word “crime” does not appear in his plan.
It’s a watershed from last year, when Adams’ inaugural budget was largely dedicated to fighting crime. This budget included a graph showing how dramatically crime had risen in the previous year (2021).
Guess what? Violent crime continued to rise last year, rising by 21% (actually a higher growth rate than the previous year). And while it’s good that homicides are down compared to 2020 and 2021, they’re still more than a third above 2019 levels.
However, this table of criminal offenses fully missing from this year’s budget presentation.
Yes, it’s nice that things have moved in the right direction over the past two months, although this is mainly due to back-breaking police overtime.
Do we declare victory and move on through an oversight? New York is not quite ready for this.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor for the City Journal of the Manhattan Institute.