Labor contracts ‘profoundly challenging’
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
With a labor-contract tsunami threatening to swamp New York City, Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio has chosen a man with three decades of experience balancing budgets in Albany to be his new budget director.
Dean Fuleihan, fiscal advisor to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and other Assembly leaders, was the Assembly’s principal staff negotiator on the $130 billion state budget.
De Blasio said that Fuleihan has “an extraordinary record taking multibillion dollar budget proposals and seeing them through to completion.”
At a press conference held at the New York City College of Technology (City Tech) in Downtown Brooklyn, de Blasio said that New York City is facing “a profoundly challenging city budget” process, with more than 150 labor contracts -- the city’s entire union workforce -- unresolved by exiting Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” he warned. Within weeks of taking office on January 1, de Blasio has to present a city budget in the midst of the contract mess, uncertainty in Washington, and lingering demands from Superstorm Sandy, among other fiscal pressures.
At the same time, de Blasio promised to keep his pledge to address income inequality in the city.
De Blasio listed his budget priorities as investing in early childhood education; building 200,000 units of affordable housing; and moving away from subsidizing large corporations and shifting that money instead towards small businesses, health care and city institutions like the City University of New York (CUNY).
“City Tech is exactly the kind of place that would benefit” from an investment in “training everyday New Yorkers for tech jobs,” de Blasio said.
“Progressives have waited a long time for this moment,” Fuleihan said. “I look forward to fighting for New York City again.”
Fuleihan said he hoped to resolve the labor contracts in a way that “respects the work force and protects the taxpayers.”
He also said that the city budget would adhere to progressive priorities. “The budget . . . is more than numbers. It’s a chance to deliver progress to the people of New York City.”
De Blasio said that when he approaches the legislature in his push to tax the wealthy to fund early childhood education, Fuleihan would be “an extraordinary asset.”
“No one is more knowledgeable in how Albany and budgeting works. He is the gold standard.”
In a statement, de Blasio’s transition team said that Fuleihan “helped oversee operations of 37 Assembly committees, offered policy and fiscal review on legislation, and provided forecasts of the economy and state revenues. During his years in government, Fuleihan was widely respected on both sides of the aisle, even by his counterparts in budget negotiations that could be contentious.”
After departing the Assembly, Fuleihan joined the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering as Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman applauded de Blasio’s choice of Fuleihan in a statement on Wednesday:
“Dean Fuleihan is an inspired and outstanding choice to oversee New York City’s budget and be a steward of Mayor-elect De Blasio’s progressive vision for our city. I have worked with Dean for decades and witnessed his commitment to responsible budgeting and the values Mayor-elect De Blasio holds deeply.”