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Presidential Election Will Affect NYC's Financial Outlook, De Blasio Says

By Jeff Mays | January 22, 2016 12:12pm
 The upcoming presidential elections will have a major effect on the financial outlook of the largest city in the country, said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The upcoming presidential elections will have a major effect on the financial outlook of the largest city in the country, said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
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Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office

CITY HALL — The upcoming presidential elections will have a major impact on the financial outlook of the largest city in the country, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Referencing financially troubled city agencies such as the New York City Housing Authority and NYC Health and Hospitals — which both rely on federal money — de Blasio said their outlook depends on who is elected president later this year.

"It’s too early to tell the outcome, but we all know we could have a president in the White House who wants to make investments in healthcare, in affordable housing, in mass transit, in infrastructure in a way that has not been done previously or wasn’t reachable previously," de Blasio said in presenting his preliminary budget Thursday at City Hall. "We all know we may have a new Senate and a new Senate majority leader."

That's one of the reasons de Blasio announced plans last spring to attempt to influence the presidential election with the formation of a group of progressive politicians and leaders around the country called the Progressive Agenda Committee.

The group wanted to make income inequality, and all the issues surrounding it — such as a $15 minimum wage and paid sick leave — a major topic of conversation in the election.

The mayor even declined to endorse his former boss, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, until he heard a "progressive vision" from her.

De Blasio traveled to Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin to speak about the issue and also joined with mayors around the country to successfully push for a renewed federal investment in transportation infrastructure.

"This is why I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for the last two years, trying to have some impact with my colleague mayors in particular on the entire national discussion on what the federal government should invest in," the mayor said.

NYCHA has billions of dollars in unmet capital needs, largely due to reduced federal funding over the years.

In his preliminary fiscal year 2017 budget, de Blasio included $337 million to help prop up NYC Health and Hospitals by paying for its malpractice insurance and debt service on its bonds.

The agency, which oversees 11 city hospitals with mostly indigent patients, is suffering because of reduced Medicaid reimbursement rates, de Blasio said.

"If we got some important changes on healthcare, it could make a big impact on Health and Hospitals. If we got support for affordable housing, it could make a very big impact on that $17 billion dollars in capital needs at the housing authority," de Blasio said.

"So, that to me is the biggest X factor. It’s not what more could happen with the city budget or the state budget — the big X factor for the people of New York City is what could change on the federal level," he continued.

De Blasio's efforts to affect national level issues hit a speed bump when no candidates committed to the presidential forum planned by the Progressive Agenda Committee. The mayor eventually endorsed Clinton and has since trumpeted her as the candidate whose policy stances will be most favorable to cities like New York.

A higher minimum wage and paid sick leave have become topics of debate leading up to the presidential primaries.

Maria Doulis, vice president of the Citizens Budget Commission, said some federal budget realities aren't going to change regardless of who's elected president.

"Is NYCHA ever going to be funded the way it was in yesteryear? No. There's a sense that this is the new normal," Doulis said. "The best approach is to hope for the best but don't count on it in the budget."

The city is not depending on the outcome of the election to set its budget priorities, the mayor said.

"You don’t see me saying, here’s the budget, it assumes Hillary Clinton is president and Chuck Schumer is the Senate majority leader, right?" de Blasio said. "We’re not also assuming the opposite. This budget is sort of neutral on the question of where Washington will go."