DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio continued to staff up key positions in his administration Wednesday with the appointment of Dean Fuleihan, a long-time budget advisor to the New York State Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, as his top budget aide.
De Blasio said he sees in Fuleihan both a fellow progressive, as well as a veteran administrator who can help him tackle the massive budget undertaking he’ll face when he takes office next month.
“I resolved from the beginning that we would find a verified progressive who also had the extraordinary skill to navigate and run our budget process,” de Blasio said. “Dean Fuleihan is that extraordinary talent who shares our values.”
Fuleihan spent more than 30 years as the fiscal and policy advisor to the Assembly speaker, where he acted as chief negotiator for that chamber in the budget process until 2011. De Blasio described Fuleihan was “deeply respected on both sides of the aisle and at both end of the capitol building” in Albany.
Now, Fuleihan will be the person to figure out how to put together a $70 billion city budget that is ambitious in its policy agenda, while also confronting the monumental fiscal challenges ahead.
More than 150 outstanding labor contracts have to be negotiated by the new administration, potentially punching a multi-billion dollar hole in the budget. There will also be the legacy costs of Hurricane Sandy and shrinking Federal dollars as Washington deals with its own fiscal issues.
“That is the reality of an extremely tough fiscal situation and we will grapple with it resolutely,” de Blasio said.
Yet the Mayor-elect promised to deliver his signature proposal for universal pre-kindergarten, despite the budgetary obstacles, and Fuleihan said he intends to help de Blasio keep that promise.
“I'm doing this because the budget of the City of New York is more than numbers. It’s my chance to deliver on progressive values for millions of people in the five boroughs,” Fuleihan said.
When asked if he thought Albany would ultimately give de Blasio his tax increase to pay for his education proposal, Fuleihan said he was confident they would.
“The chances are excellent,” he said, noting that other mayor’s had come to Albany in the past and had received what they asked for—a favorite point of de Blasio’s.
“This is a tremendously popular proposal,” he continued. “It will be part of how we put together this overall plan and this overall policy agenda.”