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Speaker’s State-of-the-City: Signals for this budget season

A proposal for universal pre-kindergarten and rental assistance for homeless families are two City Council ripostes to an austere budget from the mayor

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at a private fundraiser last year. AP Photo/Evan Agostini

In a State of the City address exalting the “power of communities,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn offered a few clues to the council’s likely budget recommendations, due in late March. The ambition of many of the proposals announced in today’s speech signals that the Council and Mayor may be in for some tough negotiations over the city budget this year.

Universal kindergarten, the idea previewed in press coverage earlier today, is just one item that would require some upward adjustment to the city budget to carry out. She would add enough money for an additional 100,000 repairs a year for the New York City Housing Authority; a child-care loan program for middle-income families, $71 million in funds for the City University of New York to generate matching funds from the state; $100,000 to help the Freelancers Union start a health care clinic; and a rental assistance program for homeless families.

Brooklyn Council member Letitia James, a member of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, said the speech was “a touchdown.” “I was pleasantly surprised,” said James. “It hit all the progressive notes.”

Councilman Domenic Recchia, also of Brooklyn, also voiced his support for the sweeping array of proposals. “We need to sit back, analyze and get it done,” said Recchia. “There’s enough money to do this.”

But it isn’t yet clear where the money for Quinn’s ambitious agenda will come from. Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed $68 billion city budget is already lean and missing many of the line items – including 20 fire companies, thousands of child care slots, and cultural and library funding – that the Council successfully fought to put back in the budget last year.

As Capital New York noted, at least one item will have private funding in the mix: a child-care loan program for middle income families, which aides said would be paid for with $200,000 in yet-to-raised private funding.

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