City Council lambasts de Blasio budget for excluding subway fare discounts for poor while spending soars

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson speaks during an Executive Budget Hearing on Monday. (John McCarten For New York City Council)

City Council members grilled Mayor de Blasio’s budget director Monday on an $89.1 billion budget plan they said left them "deeply disappointed" and fed up.

Speaker Corey Johnson tore into the mayor for refusing to pay $212 million for half-price subway fares for the poor along with other programs proposed by the Council.

At the same time, spending has gone up $965 million just since February, and de Blasio last week touted a $300 million expansion of his citywide ferry fleet.

Johnson said that besides the discount MetroCard program known as Fair Fares, de Blasio ignored most of the 50 proposals the Council requested in its budget response.

"We are deeply disappointed in what was not included," he said. "I don’t feel like we have been respected."

Office of Management and Budget director Melanie Hartzog said that while the budget has jumped 4.5% since last year, most of that is the rising cost of basic operations — especially after de Blasio signed more generous labor contracts early in his first term but pushed off many of the costs for several years, bills that are coming due now.

"The mayor has always supported Fair Fares," she said, reiterating de Blasio’s argument that it should be paid for by a millionaire’s tax approved by Albany. "We would like to see conversations on a dedicated funding source for it."

She also noted the city’s finances had tightened due to more than half a billion dollars in costs they had to assume under the state budget.

De Blasio’s budget leaves out $212 million for half-price subway fares for the poor. (Smith, Bryan, Freelance NYDN)

At a contentious hearing that stretched on more than three hours, Council members also criticized the massive spike in homeless shelter spending under de Blasio.

The April budget added $345 million in shelter costs for this year and next — on top of $300 million that had been added in the preliminary plan in February.

Hartzog attributed the spike to more spending on shelter security, staff to help residents find permanent homes, mental health programs, and a recent influx of single homeless people as opposed to families.

Hartzog said the latest infusion of cash into shelters would be the last. But Councilman Steve Levin, chair of the general welfare committee, did not buy that. "I am pretty sure that this is not the last time we’re going to see a massive increase in spending," he said.

"I’m extremely frustrated and disappointed. I believe spending’s way too high," he said.

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