NEW YORK – City Council Member Brad Lander released the following statement regarding his vote on the FY22 expense budget:
“After a pandemic year that threw our city into an economic crisis, we are fortunate today to be in a far better financial position, thanks in large part to federal relief, as well as progressive revenue increases at the state level.
“As a result, rather than the feared austerity that would have badly constrained our recovery, we are in a position to take a Keynesian approach to this crisis, by investing in creating new jobs, supporting small businesses and cultural organizations, getting our schools open safely and supportively, keeping our communities safe — and putting our city on stronger fiscal footing for the future.
“Many of the investments in the budget agreement between the Mayor and the Council are very good ones. Achieving 100% Fair Student Funding for our schools for the first time ever is a huge step forward. And I am glad that the agreement increases by $500 million our initial deposit into the new Rainy Day Fund, standing it up at $1 billion, a meaningful first step to prepare for future downturns.
“Unfortunately, however, the budget agreement fails to provide sufficient transparency about too many critical issues. As I wrote back in early May, and as a group of civic and business leaders wrote earlier this month, we especially need more transparency and smarter spending of American Rescue Plan dollars. We need more clarity on where one-time ARP spending is being applied against recurring obligations. Many of these items are strong investments (e.g. 3K, critical support for nonprofits), but they should be reflected in the City’s “baseline” budget, and matched to recurring revenues, especially given looming out-year deficits. We also need a much clearer description of strategies and outcomes, so we can evaluate whether ARP spending actually achieves its goals (e.g. creates jobs, saves small businesses, supports students’ social, emotional, and academic needs, etc). And we need to apply an equity lens to these spending decisions, to ensure that the hardest-hit communities receive the relief they deserve.
“I’m also disturbed that this agreement increases the NYPD budget by nearly $200 million and increases headcount at both NYPD and the Department of Corrections. All neighborhoods need and deserve to be safe, and we must confront rising levels of gun violence. But New York City already has more police officers per capita than nearly every large American city, according to the Vera Institute of Justice. In this moment, we should instead be investing more in other strategies for genuine community safety, including mental health care, supportive housing, cure violence programs, school guidance counselors, and youth jobs.
“Finally, I’m deeply frustrated with the lack of information about this budget, provided to the public, and even to City Council Members ourselves. Schedule C has not been up for 24 hours, as has long been a Council commitment and practice. This Council should not dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in discretionary funding with just a few hours notice. And we had even less notice on changes to the baseline from the Executive Budget, and on billions in capital spending. This is the least transparent budget agreement in my 12 years as a Council Member.
“I am therefore voting no today on the City’s FY22 expense budget. I will continue to push for more budget transparency, more strategic spending of federal and state resources, more care in preparing for future economic crises, and a budget that lifts up, protects, and provides opportunity for all of our communities.”