Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn last week announced an agreement on the Fiscal Year 2008 New York City budget. The $59 billion budget includes $1.3 billion in property, sales, and small-business tax cuts, including a property tax rate cut of 7 percent for the coming year. These tax cuts come in addition to the $256 million in $400-perhomeowner tax rebates requested by the city and approved by the state legislature recently.
The FY 2008 budget includes funding for six-day-per-week library service, provides resources for bulletproof vests for Auxiliary Police officers and funds enhancements to the 311 system. It also provides new funding for the ongoing health impacts of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. It includes funding for a new Police Academy and for parks, transportation and other programs related to PlaNYC.
One of the many things about this budget that makes us very happy indeed is the tax cut and rebate program for property owners. It serves as an example of the kind of forward thinking that characterized the policies of some past presidential administrations, that of the late Ronald Reagan being uppermost in our minds at this moment. Like all the rest of us, the Great Communicator had his strong and weak points, but one of his great gifts was his constant awareness that tax cuts add far more to any economy than they initially appear to subtract.
We have in this space several times applauded the $400 tax rebate; we now do so again and add our praise and admiration for the $1.3 billion in tax cuts on property, small businesses and sales transactions. These fiscal measures are aimed primarily at the city's middle- and working-class citizens- a segment of the population vital to the growth and development of any municipality. Without a strong middle class tax base a city faces fiscal instability and all its inevitable accompanying social and political problems. The tax cuts will ensure that New York City retains a strong middle class. Because living here presents economic as well as cultural, educational and social advantages, more of the city's middle-class citizens will choose to stay, rather than move to the suburbs or to other localities. The money they spend on goods and services will benefit existing business enterprises and foster the growth of new ones. These in their turn will add to the city's tax receipts.
The city's middle and working classes as well as the municipal coffers will not be the only beneficiaries of the tax cut program. Schools provided with more money will necessarily see improvements, both to their physical plant and the educational process. A better-educated workforce will provide a way out of poverty for many.
The budget invests in the city's longterm fiscal outlook through pay-go capital and the restructuring of debt to help reduce forecasted out-year budget gaps. The $2.3 billion to pay expenses and cover debt service in Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010 is more money than the city has ever set aside to help fill out-year budget gaps.
The spending plan earmarks $42.7 million to keep all public libraries open six days a week, effective immediately, and includes additional money to create summer jobs for youth, programs to help autistic children and health initiatives to combat obesity. Again, we applaud the mayor, Speaker Quinn, the council and the city comptroller for their acknowledging that some things are more important than a bottom line. The city's public libraries have served as the path to knowledge for generations, with only the minimal cost of a library card as the price of admission or tuition. Summer jobs for city youth teach young people to value themselves and the work they do. Programs aiding autistic children will assist in helping these youngsters realize their full potential and, hopefully, will provide researchers with some of the answers they need to combat this rising scourge. An obese population is an unhealthy population and while we do not argue that in many cases the condition arises out of lifestyle choices rather than physiological disease or defect, the city's providing help in making those choices will go far to improve the overall health of New York City's citizens.
Benefits specific to Queens include $1 billion for a new state of the art Police Academy in College Point as well as the borough's part of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC commitment to tree planting, mass transit project funding and expansion of the city's existing network of bicycle paths- another weapon in the city's arsenal in the fight against obesity as well. There is truly something here for every borough and every citizen.
This is the earliest a New York City budget agreement has been reached since 2001. We hope that the rest of the city council will see fit to pass this budget as soon as possible. The sooner its provisions are put into effect the sooner its advantages will be felt by us all.