- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed a $44 billion budget yesterday that includes $487 million in cuts and assumes passage of a commuter tax not favored by the governor as New York City faces its worst fiscal crisis since the '70s.
Mr. Bloomberg's spending plan does not call for any immediate layoffs in the city's work force of 250,000.
In Philadelphia, meanwhile, Mayor John Street proposed the elimination of about 1,600 jobs through layoffs and attrition.
Mr. Bloomberg's spending plan also includes $600 million in savings from the city's municipal work force through such measures as making employees pay for their prescription drugs which union leaders have flatly rejected.
Essential to the budget, the mayor said, is $1 billion from a commuter tax that Gov. George E. Pataki has said repeatedly he does not support.
Many items in Mr. Bloomberg's proposal would need the approval of state legislators, and he said he is optimistic that he will be able to make his case on the commuter tax.
"Those people take advantage of the protection our police department provides, of the safety our fire department provides, they throw out trash that our sanitation picks up, and when you say it's not fair, it's not fair to get a service and not pay your fair share of it," he said.
A Pataki spokeswoman reiterated yesterday the governor's opposition to the tax.
"The governor made clear that given the fragile nature of the economy, he's going to look to other ways to help the city," Lisa Dewald Stoll said.
Beyond its projected $3.4 billion deficit for fiscal 2004, the city faces gaps of $5 billion or more each in fiscal 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Mr. Bloomberg did not rule out layoffs. The city's work force is expected to be reduced by 8,000 through early retirements and buyouts by mid-2004. Since October, 700 city workers have been laid off.
The City Council must approve the budget by June.
Mr. Street said in Philadelphia that he will cut 50 of his top staff and eliminate 1,614 jobs. He said he plans to remove 2,500 positions, or 10 percent of the city's work force, by 2008. He also proposed closing some recreation centers and pools.
Because of surpluses from previous years, Philadelphia will actually end 2003 with a small surplus. But with flat revenue, increasing health care costs and the stock market in a slide, the city's budget deficit is projected at $834 million by 2008.


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