Mayor-Elect Bill De Blasio Names Dean Fuleihan as Budget Boss, and Mayor Bloomberg Chimes in that New Administration Needs to Chop City Worker Benefits

NY Daily News - December 19, 2013

by ERIN DURKIN AND JENNIFER FERMINO

AS MAYOR-ELECT Bill de Blasio announced his choice for budget director, Mayor Bloomberg Wednesday sounded an alarm about the skyrocketing costs of benefits for city workers.

“The costs of today’s benefits cannot be sustained for another generation — not without inflicting real harm on . . . our children and our grandchildren,” Bloomberg said in one of his final addresses as mayor.

Bloomberg insisted that it was a “once in a lifetime opporunity” for de Blasio to demand real change. “That is political leverage,” Bloomberg told a suit-and-tie clad crowd of about 900 at the Manhattan Marriott Marquis.

Hizzoner, though, has left de Blasio the job of negotiating new labor deals for all of the city’s unionized workers, who have been without contracts for years and figure they are owed $7 billion in back pay.

De Blasio was in no mood to take Bloomberg’s advice, saying no outgoing mayor ever left such unfinished business behind.

“No previous mayor ever let that happen... He can give speeches and that’s his right. We’re the ones that will have to resolve them [the contracts],” de Blasio said.

For that and other large tasks, de Blasio named Dean Fuleihan, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s longtime budget guru, as his budget chief. He will be tasked with finding money to finance new contracts and de Blasio’s agenda. “It will be tough sledding, but we will get there,” Fuleihan said.

Unlike Bloomberg, de Blasio has never called for pension reform or for city workers to contribute more to health care costs, which most private sector workers do. He called resolving the open contracts “job one” for his new budget director, but declined to say how his administration would do that.

Insread, he focused on how Fuleihan would help him realize his ambitious policy goals.

The goals include expanding early childhood education — a hallmark of his campaign — adding 200,000 units of affordable housing, and increasing funding for the CUNY system. He acknowledged that with the city’s strained finances it’d be tough, but promised to get it done.

Fuleihan, whose father and maternal grandparents were Lebanese immigrants, choked up when he said he accepted the job in “honor” of his family. “They struggled and built wonderful lives and opportunities for their children,” he said.