Avella attacks mayor over budget proposal
by Peter C. Mastrosimone , Editor-in-Chief
A key Queens lawmaker who intends to run for the city’s highest office blasted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s budget plan this week as unnecessarily draconian.
City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) contends that the spending cuts and layoffs Bloomberg proposed for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1, could all be avoided if his own ideas were implemented instead.
The city is facing a $4 billion deficit in 2010, according to the administration’s latest estimate. Just two months ago, the shortfall was pegged at only $1.3 billion. And the city has already made $2.4 billion in cuts; otherwise the mayor says the gap would be projected at $6.4 billion.
The reason of course is the continuing economic slide and resultant decrease in city tax revenues.
In a budgetary statement issued last week, Bloomberg said the city needs help from the state and federal governments, as well as municipal unions here, to avoid deeper cuts. And he cited the mid-year reductions already approved by the City Council as crucial.
“The tough decisions we made over the last year prevented the current deficit from being unmanageable, and we now have a plan to close that deficit,” Bloomberg said. “We will do our part by cutting nearly another $1 billion in agency spending, and the wise choices we made when the economy was booming have helped, allowing us to pay down billions of dollars in expenses for future years.”
Avella, however, has a different take.
“I think there’s no way we should be doing layoffs in this economy,” he said Tuesday. “That’s a catch-22 situation. They have less money, they may go on unemployment; it’s like raising taxes. It doesn’t solve anything.”
Avella cited Bloomberg’s plans to delay the hiring of more police officers and to close some fire companies at night as among the worst of his proposals. “That’s stupid and puts people’s lives in jeopardy,” he said.
The councilman claimed the budget gap could be closed just by eliminating waste in city agencies and by enacting one of his longtime proposals: legalizing sports betting and turning it into a cash cow for the city.
If the city would just go after people who damage public property, it could raise as much as $100 million a year, Avella asserted, saying the Police Department alone spends $3 million annually to fix patrol cars hit by other drivers.
Meanwhile sports betting generates anywhere from $15 to $30 billion a year for organized crime syndicates, he said — money that would close the budget gap and then some.
Mayoral officials could not immediately be reached for a response, but have said in the past that Avella is just politicking when he criticizes Bloomberg. He is one of several officials who plan to challenge the mayor in this year’s election. The councilman said the fact that he has been proposing the same measures for years shows that he is sincere.
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