Gotbaum: Budget Cut Is 'Payback' From Quinn

What the papers reported:

What Betsy really said:


The following was posted on the Politicker

Gotbaum Says 40 Percent Budget Cut Is 'Payback' From Quinn for Term Limits

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said her office will be cut by 40 percent in the budget being passed by the City Council this afternoon because of her opposition to extending term limits, and called it “political payback from Speaker Quinn,” the Council speaker. (more from this and other articles after the jump)

A spokesperson for the speaker, Christine Quinn, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Quinn does not have a media availability scheduled today and is set to pass the budget at 12:30 p.m.

Gotbaum, in a press conference outside City Hall just now, said she’s so angry that she will no longer preside over meetings of that legislative body.

The budget for the public advocate’s office will go from $2.8 million this year to $1.7 million next year, according to Gotbaum, who is leaving office in January and not running for a third term. She said she will not lay off any of her 40 employees, but may leave some positions vacant in order to save money for whomever succeeds her.

“I believe this is political payback from Speaker Quinn to my spirited opposition to extending term limits without a referendum,” Gotbaum told reporters.

The cut was proposed by the mayor, but Gotbaum said the Council traditionally restores those cuts, and did fully restore cuts proposed to the borough presidents’ offices, she said.

“I find it appalling that the speaker could not find the money to restore my budget but did have $17 million to hand out. The speaker can get the money from wherever she is parking those funds.”

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Quinn called to say they will have a media availability before today's budget vote. Gotbaum's accusation, presumably, will be one topic that comes up.

The following was posted on the Daily News Politics blog:

Gotbaum Accuses Quinn Of 'Political Payback'

An angry Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum lashed out today at Council Speaker Christine Quinn, blaming the speaker for failing to restore a 40 percent cut to the PA's $2.8 million budget and charging it was "political payback" for her opposition of extending term limits.

Gotbaum, who presides over City Council sessions and acts as a parliamentarian, is so furious she says she will boycott sessions for the remainder of her term, which ends Dec.31, the DN's Frank Lombardi reports.

Reading from a prepared text, Gotbaum said:

"I believe this is a political payback from Speaker Quinn for my spirited opposition to extending term limits without a referendum. It is anti-democratic, bad government and politics at its worst."

She said her watchdog office "is being starved out of existence" by the speaker, adding: "This cut by the speaker is an attempt to turn the watchdog into a lapdog."

Gotbaum, a longtime friend of Quinn, blamed the speaker for failing to push for the traditional budget restorations her office has received annually as part of the so-called "budget dance" between the Council and the mayor's office.

She said she spoke to Mayor Bloomberg, who initially imposed the cut, about the speaker's refusal to restore her budget and was told he would "look into it."

Obviously, he didn't, she told reporters at a press conference on the City Hall steps.

Gotbaum said she was further galled by the fact that Quinn and the Council are spending nearly $50 million on member items in the new budget and refusing to raise a hand to even partially restore the $1.1 million wack in her budget.

She noted Quinn directly controls $17 million of those member items.

Gotbaum also said that she and Quinn had a heated private conference on the issue last Friday in Quinn's office. Quinn told her that none of the Council members had spoken up in favor of restoring the Public Advocate's budget, according to Gotbaum.

Gotbaum stressed this "isn't about me," noting her time in office is almost up. "This is about the institution," she said. "This is about good government."

Quinn's office had no immediate comment.

Despite having a budget of only $1.7 million for the next 12 months, Gotbaum said she would not impose layoffs on her 40-member staff. But workers who leave will not be replaced.

She indicated that she also would not curtail any of her ombudsman functions, but pledged to try to leave her successor with whatever funding is possible. She said the budget problem will be up to her successor to try to resolve.

Gotbaum announced last fall that she would not take advantage of the term limits extension she had vigorously opposed to seek re-election this fall (although she had considered a mayoral run, she was widely expected to retire from politics at the end of this year anyway).

Four Democrats are vying for the seat Gotbaum will vacated, including former Public Advocate Mark Green, Coucilman Bill de Blasio, Councilman Eric Gioia and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel. Republican Alex Zablocki is also running.