New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall yesterday said New York City's mayor-elect, Rudolph W. Giuliani, "lost an opportunity" by rejecting many of the budget recommendations from a panel of fiscal experts appointed by the current mayoral administration.
McCall, in remarks made after an afternoon speech before the Municipal Forum of New York, said the report presents "a menu of options -- some could be rejected, some might be worth accepting."
"It seems to me to reject the report out of hand is a lost opportunity," McCall said.
The Report, released on Dec. 2, was prepared by a panel of fiscal experts appointed by Mayor David N. Dinkins. But Giuliani, who beat Dinkins in the November mayoral election, has said he opposes the panel's suggestions for tax increases, and has pledged to reduce some business-related taxes.
The Giuliani administration will face a multibillion structural budget gap upon taking office in January. Fiscal experts say officials must find about $2 billion to plug gaps in the city's fiscal 1995 budget, which begins July 1, and billions of additional dollars to balance future budgets.
During the speech made at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City, McCall also said that Giuliani should create a "coalition of government, business, and labor" designed to address the city's budget problems. McCall said the coalition should include Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, state lawmakers, city officials, federal officials, and members of the business community.
"In the 1970s, New Yorkers faced an unprecedented fiscal crisis," McCall said. "While today's problems are not comparable, I believe the solution should be similar to what was tried nearly 20 years ago." Unions, government, and business joined together to rescue the city when it faced bankruptcy in the 1970s.
The comptroller gave the mayor-elect another suggestion, saying the city should stop cutting back its capital budget. McCall said Giuliani had asked his office to research the issue, and he believes that deferring capital spending on infrastructure may create higher long-term costs.
Officials with the Giuliani transition team had no immediate comment on McCall's suggestions.
McCall also defended hisi plan to help the state and many of its localities repay a $4 billion liability to their employee retirement systems.
While devising the state's fiscal 1991 budget, Cuomo and the state Legislature designed a budget plan to fill a $2 billion budget cap. Officials changed the method by which the state and localities would make payments into the pension funds.
The plan, which was criticized by fiscal observers as a "budget gimmick," provided for about for years of reduced pension fund contributions, but increased these costs in the future. On Dec. 6, the state court of appeals ruled that the change was illegal, and McCall was forced to develop a repayment plan.
The plan he came up with calls for a gradual repayment of the liability over a 12-year to 20-year period. "I believe [the plan] is fair and equitable for both the pension system and the taxpayer," McCall said.
But many fiscal monitors have criticized the repayment schedule proposed by McCall because it burdens future taxpayers.
"We are disappointed with the comptroller's plan," said Cynthia Green, deputy research director for the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit watchdog group. "Four years of taxpayers and politicians benefited. To ask the next 12 to 20 years of taxpayers to foot the bill is inequitable."