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$85.2 billion NYC budget adds tax exemptions, senior care

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, campaigning

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, campaigning for re-election at the Antioch Baptist Church in Harlem, speaks before the West Harlem Progressive Democratic Club on Saturday, June 3, 2017. Credit: Steven Sunshine

New York City’s municipal budget is $85.2 billion for the upcoming fiscal year — reflecting a 14 percent hike over the $75 billion budget that the Democratic mayor and council leadership enacted in 2014, their first year in office.

The fiscal blueprint, the basics of which were released late Friday night in the City Hall rotunda in Manhattan, contains $23 million to eliminate a waitlist for home care, extend weekend meals for the elderly, and boost rates paid to senior centers; $25 million for property tax exceptions for veterans deployed to war, which would average about $443 a year for about 56,000 people; $7.2 million for an emergency food program; and $110 million for library capital projects.

A $16.4 million plan funds lawyers for immigrants living in the country illegally who are facing deportation, as well as asylum seekers and youth who come to the country unaccompanied. But to the council leaders’ chagrin, the plan excludes those immigrants facing deportation who have committed about 170 of the most serious crimes, such as murder.

The City Council wants lawyers for all, but the mayor does not, and the issue remains unresolved. Prospective deportees convicted of thousands of other crimes will get taxpayer-funded lawyers for deportation proceedings.

The actual budget itself was not released; the final details still were being negotiated.

The council and mayor hailed Friday’s agreement, sealed with a ceremonial handshake between speaker and mayor, as the earliest since 1992. But details of discretionary appropriations for the council members’ pet projects would be available 24 hours before the vote, which must occur in time for the July 1 start of the next fiscal year.

The budget increases reserves by $300 million, to $9.6 billion, for contingencies, according to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), including looming cuts from the federal government under President Donald Trump.

De Blasio said the budget team was tasked with “constantly being prepared for what may lay ahead.”

“It’s an X factor in Washington,” de Blasio said.

The two front-running Republicans vying to unseat de Blasio criticized the budget as costing too much.

Paul Massey, a real estate executive, said: “We must cut the bloat that is a byproduct of poor management and a tax-and-spend mentality and bring fiscal sanity back to City Hall.” Asked what she personally would cut, his spokeswoman Mollie Fullington said, “We’d need to take a close look at it in totality.”

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island called the budget “bloated” and “another slap in the face of New York City taxpayers.”

“It’s plain to see that Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito are addicted to higher spending and higher taxes,” she said in a statement.

Her spokesman Rob Ryan said the city relies too much on consultants, wrongly funds “legal advice to hardened criminals who are also illegal immigrants” and fails to reduce the “outrageous rate” of new hires.

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