NYC budget perils grow as governor spurns taxi plan: mayor

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2011 4:43 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City's financial perils have worsened because the governor is rejecting a bill that would have raised $1 billion by selling more taxi medallions, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Thursday.

"We have $5 billion deficits we're trying to close, and $1 billion would make a very big difference in terms of how we meet our obligations to balance the budget," the mayor told reporters.

Though the current $66 billion budget is balanced, New York City faces a string of future deficits, with next year's estimated at $2 billion, and the 2018 gap at $3.8 billion.

Governor Andrew Cuomo late Wednesday told reporters he would veto the taxi bill the Assembly plans to send him on Friday, partly because it failed to resolve differences over how many new medallion cabs should be specially equipped so that they can easily be used by disabled people.

"I believe it should be 100 percent of the new medallions," Cuomo said, according to a video of the news conference posted on the web site: http://www.capitaltonight.com/2011/12/cuomos-full-presser/.

Bloomberg has argued that it would be hazardous for people in wheelchairs to attempt to hail cabs from street corners, saying other options should be used.

The mayor also has blasted taxi drivers for focusing almost entirely on Manhattan and often being reluctant to take passengers to Harlem and the outer boroughs of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

"It's been a disgrace and we have to do something about that," Bloomberg said. The new medallions would be concentrated outside of Manhattan.

The list of unresolved issues includes whether livery cars, whose trips passengers book ahead of time, should be able to freely pick up riders at the airports, and how many of them should be able to handle wheelchairs, Cuomo said.

"There's a myriad of issues and they are all significant," Cuomo said. "They are not resolved," he said.

Though the legislature just met in a brief special session to approve a tax reform measure, lawmakers are not due to return until next year.

Cuomo said the taxi bill could be revisited in January or February. "At this point, that's probably the most likely scenario," he said.

(Reporting by Joan Gralla, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)