Mayor Tells Legislature That Lost Aid Will Ensure Layoffs

ALBANY – Warning of the likelihood of “particularly devastating” layoffs, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appealed to lawmakers on Monday to reduce state mandates on how much localities have to spend on personnel and services so that budget cuts proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo do not cripple New York City.

Mr. Bloomberg, speaking at the first hearing on the $132.9 billion budget that Mr. Cuomo unveiled last Tuesday, also suggested that the governor had significantly understated the extent to which his budget would reduce financing to the city.

The mayor put the cut in aid at $2.1 billion, hundreds of millions more than what Mr. Cuomo has been citing. The governor has framed his budget cuts in comparison with spending in the current fiscal year, while the mayor did his math using the financing that had been promised to New York City.

“If Albany feels it must walk away from their obligations because of previous mismanagement, which leaves us with enormous holes in our budget, it is critical that the governor and State Legislature help us reduce our expenses,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Otherwise, Mr. Bloomberg warned, there will be “layoffs and service cuts that would be devastating to our city,” and particularly the public school system.

In his prepared remarks to members of the State Senate’s Finance Committee and the State Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Bloomberg mentioned schools or school-age children 25 times, and he returned to the subject many times in responding to questions.

Speaking of mandates, he repeatedly cited the fact that state law required the city to pay the full tuition for some special-education students to attend private schools, even if their parents refuse to consider city schools that provide comparable special-education services. The private school tuition costs taxpayers $100 million per year, he said.

The mayor also said that, because of mandates, some cuts simply shift costs from the state to the city, including $31 million for homeless shelters and $120 million for summer-school special education.

Still, despite his criticism of Mr. Cuomo’s budgetary math, Mr. Bloomberg praised the governor for his efforts to pare state spending, avoid new taxes and get the state’s finances sorted out. The mayor said his staff had been in contact with the governor’s staff to share New York City’s concerns.

Mr. Bloomberg, who fielded lawmakers’ questions for more than an hour on Monday morning, was followed by a parade of mayors and other local officials — many of them from far more distressed cities, like Buffalo and Rochester — who also came to lament the cuts Mr. Cuomo has proposed and warn of their consequences.

On Mr. Cuomo’s broader agenda, he said, “I’m 100 percent behind him.”

Mr. Bloomberg also made sure to offer a note of realism.

“We’re not asking the state to come up with more money,” Mr. Bloomberg said, a point he emphasized several times.

“We know you have to cut back,” the mayor said. “We’ll have to live with it. But you can find ways to mitigate or eliminate an awful lot of the pain and let the economic engine of this state continue.”

Aside from relief from various state spending mandates, Mr. Bloomberg repeated his plea that the Legislature pursue changes in pensions for public employees and scrap teacher seniority rules before the city carries out layoffs.

Mr. Bloomberg emphasized to the lawmakers, and to reporters afterward, that despite Mr. Cuomo’s suggestion that cities and towns have the means to avoid layoffs after losing state aid, New York City will, without question, have to fire some workers.

“Unfortunately, there’s no other place we can go,” he said. “It’s not going to be just teachers; it will filter through the whole system. Every agency is going to have fewer people.”

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