New York City Budgeting, Beyond Balance, Forward-Looking Budget Priorities

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Significant budget challenges loom large for the next city administration. It should continue the sound fiscal management practices achieved by the Bloomberg administration, but it should also break new ground in budget stewardship by integrating several key objectives. Budget pressures have tended to induce policy creep and incrementalism in place of forward-looking, strategic priority-setting. A major challenge facing the city is to elevate its critical budget choices and tradeoffs to a more prominent level. Otherwise, pressures felt in the context of every year’s budget-balancing mandate will crowd out the pursuit of longer-term priorities. The narrow focus on budget balance often has fostered an austerity mentality where gap-closing actions trump problem-solving and a forward-looking perspective geared to meaningfully addressing city needs. A multi-pronged strategy is needed that addresses issues in four broad areas—the social safety net, economic development, tax structure, and public service delivery—that pose particular budget challenges for New York City.