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NYC mayor paints bleak picture in 'doomsday' budget

Balanced budget legally required

Bloomberg: "The cold harsh reality is that we have to balance the budget."

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday a dramatic "doomsday" budget plan to slash at least $1 billion from the city's budget -- and possibly much more -- unless the state and federal governments provide substantial help.

Bloomberg's unvarnished view of the local, state and federal economies contrasted sharply with an optimistic vision presented by President Bush earlier in the day to stimulate the economy by cutting $550 billion in taxes over 10 years.

His stark rendering of New York city's financial health, and his call for state and federal aid, also made for implicit but pointed political pressure on his fellow Republicans, Bush and New York Gov. George Pataki, to provide aid.

Bloomberg's "contingency" plan includes laying off 10,000 city employees, touching almost every city agency including the fire department, which could see up to 40 firehouses shut down.

"The cold harsh reality is that we have to balance the budget," Bloomberg said, noting a balanced budget is legally required.

Bloomberg said he remains hopeful that the state and federal government will come through with aid for the city, despite the bleak state of national economy.

'Devastating' cuts proposed

He also called on labor unions to make concessions in order to avoid these "devastating" cuts. He reiterated his call for a commuter tax, which he said would bring an additional $1.4 billion in revenue. Republican leaders in Albany have said in the past that they oppose reinstating a commuter tax.

"In the end, it is Albany and the labor unions that we have to depend on," Bloomberg said.

Other cuts in the contingency plan include eliminating the police cadet force for 2003, bringing the number of police officers to its lowest level since 1993; eliminating all city-funded after-school programs; laying off over a thousand sanitation workers, affecting regular garbage pick ups; and canceling summer school programs for students who need help but are not failing in school.

The Bloomberg administration has already cut $600 million from the city budget, moving to close eight firehouses and lay off 5,000 city employees.

Bloomberg insisted that this plan is not a "scare tactic" to pressure Albany and Washington to give aid. He called it "our insurance policy if we don't get what we want."

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