New York Daily News

January 29, 2005

Mayor: Union hikes could bankrupt city

If the state arbitrators give cops, firefighters and teachers the raises they are seeking, the city could go broke, Mayor Bloomberg warned yesterday.

"If the arbitrators were to give them enormous settlements, that could bankrupt the city," Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show on WABC-AM.

The mayor's not-so-subtle attempt to influence the state Public Employment Relations Board, which is arbitrating the impasse between the city and the three unions, echoed comments he made a day earlier during his budget presentation at City Hall.

"We would have no recourse if the [board] gives the police a raise outside of the pattern," Bloomberg said Thursday, referring to the raises other city employees received. It would be enormously detrimental to our budget, and we would have to respond in ways that I think would create pain."

Other city workers have gotten a $1,000 payment in the first year of their new contract, a 3% raise in the second year and a 2% raise in the third.

Union leaders blasted Bloomberg's remarks.

"The mayor has money for a new football stadium. He has money for all his new pet projects. But he doesn't have money to pay a fair wage to cops, firefighters and teachers," said Randi Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers.

"Be honest. He's really saying that's just not his priority," Weingarten fumed. "Let's stop the insults, the vituperativeness, and level with the public."

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, accused the mayor of trying to "frighten" the arbitration panel.

"The PBA is confident that the panel will see through this transparent attempt to influence its decision just as it saw him plead poverty before them on the same day he announced that the city could easily afford a second $250 million in real estate rebates," Lynch said.

For the second time this week, Bloomberg also said that union officials who think the city has a surplus should "take an accounting course."

Union officials said the Harvard-educated billionaire is talking out of both sides of his mouth. On the first page of his financial plan the mayor boasts in a signed letter: "We are expecting to end the current Fiscal Year 2005 with a surplus for the 25th consecutive year."

"You can't take credit for a surplus and then the very next minute deny that one exists," Weingarten said.

Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler pointed out that the city is projecting multibillion-dollar deficits in future years. "The point is we don't have extra money to spend," he said.