I have always said that budgets are more about people than they are about numbers. On Thursday, I presented a Preliminary Budget for the City’s Fiscal Year 2006, which begins July 1st. It’s a good budget for all New Yorkers. It reflects the priorities of our Administration: Increasing public safety and improving our quality of life; creating jobs; reforming our schools; and helping the vulnerable. In the State of the City I described our hard work to create a City of Opportunity for all New Yorkers. This budget will help us realize that vision.

The budget also reflects how the City is doing as a whole. Over the last few years, we’ve made some very difficult decisions. But because we were not afraid to make the tough choices, our City is doing well.

Crime is down to levels not seen since the 1960s. Our unemployment rate is down to pre-9/11 levels. Tourists are flocking back to New York in record numbers. Property values keep getting higher. We are reforming our schools so that every child has the opportunity to get a first-rate education.

Now is not the time to change course. The City is benefiting from a resurgent economy and more efficient government, but we must remain fiscally responsible or we will risk all we have gained. If we’re reckless with the City budget, we will spend our way right back into a fiscal crisis. After all we have done, after all we have been
through, no one wants to see that happen.

We still have serious challenges ahead. Non-discretionary costs like pensions and Medicaid continue to increase; there’s little the City can do about it. Also, we have included money in the budget to cover raises for municipal employees whose contracts still haven’t been resolved, some of which are in binding arbitration. If we’re compelled
to give them raises that exceed what most City employees have already received, it would be enormously detrimental.

The City’s finances also are threatened by Albany’s misguided response to the court order in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which found that the State has been shortchanging our City’s schoolchildren for years. City taxpayers, who send more than $11 billion a year to Albany than we get back, cannot afford to rectify that chronic under-funding and neglect of our schools.

But we’re also making the investments now in all five boroughs that will keep our economy producing jobs and generating the revenues that pay for essential City services.

That’s why the capital plan in the preliminary budget includes developing, for example, the Staten Island Homeport, Hunts Point in the Bronx, invigorating Jamaica and downtown Brooklyn, and transforming 125th Street in Harlem. Those and other projects the City is investing in are diversifying our economy and ensuring New York’s future prosperity.

So overall, we have good reason to be optimistic. Our city is going in the right direction, and our future is bright.