NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City might have to layoff 4,400 teachers after all, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday, just two days after he granted them a reprieve by freezing their salaries rather than cutting jobs.
This is one of many decisions the mayor might have to revisit because Congress, in a surprise move last week, rejected extra Medicaid dollars many states had expected and included them in their budgets.
The independent mayor told WOR radio that New York City had counted on $600 million of the additional Medicaid funds.
“Everything will be up in the air,” Bloomberg said, when asked if the teachers might have to be laid off.
“We don’t have to necessarily cut in any one area but overall we’d have to come up with some way to raise an extra $600 million or reduce expenses by $600 million,” he said.
On Thursday, Bloomberg met with New York’s Congressional delegation to emphasize the importance of getting the extra Medicaid dollars but the city must finalize its $63 billion budget before its new fiscal year starts on July 1.
“If they (Congress) don’t have it done by June 28, we’re going to have to have some very serious cuts in the budget,” he said.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg said he would freeze the salaries of the city’s approximately 80,000 teachers for two years — which would save $400 million in the new fiscal year — instead of going ahead with the layoffs.
Medicaid is the state-federal health plan for the poor, elderly and disabled, and New York City has one of the nation’s biggest and costliest programs.
More people have qualified for Medicaid during the recession. In March, 2.832 million people were covered, up 11 percent from two years ago, the state comptroller said.
The mayor’s dilemma is complicated by the state’s inability to enact its $135 billion budget, which was due on April 1.
The Democratic-led legislature and Governor David Paterson have clashed over $2.5 billion of cuts the Democratic governor proposed in education and healthcare.
Paterson, in an interview with WOR radio on Thursday, said he feared the legislature might not enact a new budget until after the November elections.
A November budget would set a record for New York. Though its budgets often have been late, the current record for tardiness is August 4, 1997, a state budget spokesman said, under the Republican Pataki administration.
The state stands to lose $1 billion if the extra Medicaid money is not approved, increasing its deficit by a billion dollars to $10.2 billion, Paterson said.
Additional reporting by Edith Honan