Walk by any store that’s going out of business, and you’ll most likely find one phrase hanging in the window that perfectly describes the situation: “Everything must go!”
Those words normally signal a short sale of all items, but the phrase could also be used to describe New York’s economy. Nothing is for sale, but just about everything the state and city offers its residents for their tax dollars is being slashed drastically or eliminated altogether due to the Great Recession that refuses to go away.
On an almost daily basis, there’s word from Albany or City Hall of another program possibly going by the wayside, or another agency facing such severe financial problems that it will be forced to reduce services upon which working people depend.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed last year the closure of as many as 16 fire companies across New York City due to tough economic times. After elected officials found the resources to keep the units going another year, the mayor is back in 2010 with a budget seeking to eliminate the same 16 FDNY units plus four additional companies.
The Police Department also is not immune to budget reductions, as the mayor’s preliminary budget called for nearly 900 police officer positions to be cut by attrition.
A state bailout last year allowed the MTA to shelve its “doomsday budget” including severe reductions to subway and bus service. But a sudden $400 million deficit, combined with reduced revenue from a payroll tax, forced the authority to announce in December that it would scale back mass transit services after all.
The MTA’s financial troubles also led the agency to propose the elimination of its student MetroCard program, which would leave thousands of families to shell out hundreds of dollars a year just to send their children to school.
Not even public parks are safe from the budget ax. Gov. David Paterson announced last week that 41 state parks and 14 historic sites across New York State would be forced to close due to budget cutbacks. Mayor Bloomberg also proposed closing four city pools and reducing the operation of outdoor pools by two weeks.
In announcing his preliminary budget last month, Bloomberg hinted that the city’s proposed cutbacks would be even more severe if aid from the state is reduced by $1.3 billion, as proposed in Paterson’s budget.
Reducing spending is almost always a more favorable option than raising taxes, but there will come a point in which there will be nothing left for the state and city to cut without drastically impacting the quality of life of its residents.
Getting rid of fire units and hiring fewer police officers are decisions that will undoubtedly cost lives. Cutting subway and bus service makes it more difficult for residents to get to work, to school and to other destinations around the city. Slashing school aid puts New York’s children at a disadvantage.
Residents will leave New York, leaving the city and state with even less revenue and setting the stage for another fiscal crisis.
When does the bleeding stop, and when does the real recovery begin?
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