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De Blasio Vows to Fight Cuomo Budget Cuts 'by Any Means Necessary'

By Jeff Mays | January 14, 2016 6:12pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio said Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to have the city pay hundreds of millions of dollars more to fund Medicaid and the City University of New York was both
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to have the city pay hundreds of millions of dollars more to fund Medicaid and the City University of New York was both "unprecedented" and "unfair" and that the city would fight the plan "by any means necessary."
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton and DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

CORONA — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to have the city pay hundreds of millions more to fund Medicaid and CUNY was both "unprecedented" and "unfair," and the city plans to fight the plan "by any means necessary," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

Cuomo, in his State of the State address Wednesday, proposed having the city pick up the costs of increases in Medicaid funding and to also pay a greater share of the cost to fund CUNY.

The CUNY costs could reach $485 million alone each year. The mayor said the cost of funding Medicaid could rise to $1 billion by fiscal year 2020 and would continue to grow.

"Now that we've had a chance to study the budget documents carefully there are two items in the budget that are not fair to New York City, that will be harmful to New York City, that will set us back and will particularly set back our students at CUNY and will set back the people of this city in terms of healthcare," de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference in Queens.

"So my simple statement today is we will fight these cuts," he added.

De Blasio said he only learned of the cuts Wednesday during his meeting with the governor. He said he immediately expressed concern that they would hurt the city.

The mayor said he spoke to Cuomo again Thursday morning to emphasize his displeasure. Even though the city has a budget surplus, the mayor said the city is operating under the premise that it would be on its own if a recession hit.

"When I turn around in today's day and age and say to Washington and say to Albany we're in trouble now, the calvary is not coming," de Blasio said. "Let's be very clear. It's just not."

Cuomo, speaking on WNYC's "The Brian Lehrer Show," said his plan was the "best arrangement for New York City in decades."

He cited his $20 billion plan to build 20,000 units of supportive housing and 100,000 units of affordable housing as proof.

"If you want to be fair and objective, the headline should be: 'Unprecedented Joint Effort Between the State and the City on Major Priorities,'" Cuomo said.

But the governor also said it was an "absurd premise" to expect the state to pay for everything.

Cuomo also denied that his long-running rivalry with the mayor had anything to do with his budget plan.

De Blasio also dismissed that idea.

"I don't take things personally," said the mayor, who praised some elements of Cuomo's plan. "I have a job to do."

Maria Doulis, vice-president of the Citizens Budget Commission, said the governor's cuts represent "bad news" for New York City. The cuts to Medicaid funding are a "step in the wrong direction," she added.

In 2012, Cuomo froze the share of Medicaid costs that local governments like New York City have to pay. The city already pays $6.3 billion in Medicaid costs.

New York is one of the few states that has local governments pay a share of its Medicaid costs and the only state that has local governments contribute so much, Doulis said.

"It was a stabilizing force in the city's budget," Doulis said of the freeze in Medicaid costs. "But now you are introducing a new cost that will grow and reoccur each year and make it harder for the mayor to address his issues."

Cuomo's budget says the Medicaid cut could cost the city $180 million this fiscal year and jump to $480 million next year.

De Blasio said the costs will make it difficult to fund current and future initiatives such as adding more police and fixing failing public schools.

Doulis said the commission is neutral on who should pay for CUNY, but that the costs shouldn't just be dumped onto the city.

"There should be a broader conversation on how that institution is funded," Doulis said.

Barbara Bowen, a CUNY English professor who is president of the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents 25,000 CUNY faculty and staff, said the union has operated without a raise for six years.

Both the city and the state need to step up and fund CUNY because of its importance to the city, she said. Seventy-four percent of undergraduates at CUNY four-year schools are black, Asian or Latino. Around 54 percent of those undergraduates come from families that earn less than $30,000 per year.

"CUNY offers the most reliable route out of poverty in our very cruel economy and performs such an important function in a moment of great income inequality," Bowen said.

Later in the day, Cuomo tried to recast the cuts as a way to make CUNY and Medicaid "more efficient from a bureaucratic point of view," during a call to NY1.

"At the end of the day what you'll see is it won't cost New York City a penny but we will make joint, streamlining policy efficiency changes," Cuomo said of the cuts. "And that's what you're really seeing signaled in this budget."

The governor's statements directly contrast with de Blasio's earlier remarks that the cuts would be "debilitating."

De Blasio issued a statement after Cuomo's interview saying he looked forward to "a coordinated effort" seeking efficiencies with the state.

“We welcome the update from the governor, and commit to working with him to identify reforms and efficiencies," de Blasio said. "Both the city and the state have a long-term interest in strengthening the financial status, and preserving the quality, of our public higher education and our Medicaid systems."