Bloomberg: NYC closes budget gap

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NEW YORK (AP) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday that he is presenting mayor-elect Bill de Blasio with a balanced budget, saying this is the first time in more than a generation that an incoming mayor won't face a deficit.

Bloomberg, who is leaving after 12 years in office, said he has closed a previously predicted $2 billion deficit in the city's $72.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1.

"For the first time in modern memory and perhaps for the first time in New York City history, the budget for the incoming fiscal year has been balanced for an incoming mayor well before he or she steps into office," Bloomberg said at a City Hall news conference.

Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, said a combination of reduced spending and new revenue combined to eliminate the deficit he predicted last June. The city received an additional $500 million in tax revenue and saved $363 million in projected spending when the health care provider for city workers said it wouldn't raise premiums for the first time in 15 years.

Additionally, the city received a surge in revenue due to the sale of new taxi medallions, got $200 million for selling a pair of underutilized lower Manhattan office buildings and received a $60 million from Verizon as part of a settlement in the telecommunications company's tardy delivery of the city's new 911 system. The city's pension funds' investments are also running ahead of expectations, Bloomberg said.

By law, the mayor is required to balance the city budget. De Blasio, a Democrat, takes office Jan. 1.

The mayor, who touted his administration's handling of the deep fiscal crises caused by 9/11 and the 2008 recession, has long said he would not want his successor to inherit a deficit like he did from Rudolph Giuliani when he took office in January 2002.

"The next administration does not have to go and cut services," Bloomberg said. "If they want to add services, add employees or increase compensation, they're going to have to find other sources of revenue."

The budget also offers small raises to the city's nearly 300,000 workers, almost all of whom have been working on expired contracts. But the raise is not as high as the municipal unions have requested, and the budget does not meet their demands for retroactive raises.

Bloomberg said that when his team briefed the mayor-elect's staff about the budget, de Blasio's team said "thank you."

But a statement released Wednesday by the mayor-elect's spokeswoman seemed more skeptical.

"We're reviewing the budget modification released by the mayor today," said Lis Smith, "and remain concerned about the continued impact of sequestration, high uncertainty around the flow of Sandy recovery aid, and the liabilities from unresolved labor contracts. We will continue to review this new budget information closely in the coming days and weeks."

The city's unions waited out the end of Bloomberg's term in hopes of negotiating a more favorable deal _including back pay _ with his successor. De Blasio has long been an ally to labor but has not pledged to deliver retroactive raises, which would cost billions of dollars, according to the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office.

Word of a balanced budget could spur the unions to ask de Blasio for larger raises. The head of a consortium of municipal unions ripped Bloomberg for not setting aside more money for raises.

"The city's municipal employees assume good faith as a prerequisite for bargaining," said Harry Nespoli, chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee. "Mayor Bloomberg has not met that standard and we expect that the new administration will come to the table to sit and negotiate, not dictate, when we bargain."

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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