State senator tries to pave way for new ‘rainy day fund’ to help NYC during recession


Originally published in New York Daily News

Albany would authorize New York City to set up a rainy day fund under a bill introduced by state Sen. Brian Benjamin on Thursday.

The legislation came days before voting on measures including the establishment of such a fund was set to begin in the city.

“If you keep that status quo, if there is a huge recession that comes forward in the next year or so, important programs will be severely impacted,” Benjamin said outside City Hall. “The workforce will be severely impacted.”

Starting Saturday, New Yorkers can vote early on 19 measures from the New York City Charter Commission. The body recommended the creation of a rainy day fund, which is currently impossible due to state law requiring the city to balance its budget every year.

The city has been running budget surpluses that can be used as reserves, but the funds dropped by $355 million — from $4.576 billion in 2018 to $4.221 this year — according to Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Benjamin said if New Yorkers vote in favor of a rainy day fund, he’ll seek an Assembly sponsor for his bill and push for it in January. He thinks the fund should be about $10 billion to $15 billion.

The upcoming voting includes “ranked-choice” voting and changes to the way members of the Civilian Complaint Review Board are appointed.

The Harlem Democrat is laying the groundwork to run for city comptroller in 2021, but said that’s not why he’s trying to pave the way for a rainy day fund.

“Whenever recessions happen, the people who are least economically strong or have the least political connections — they’re the ones who get squeezed first. It so happens those people tend to be in my district," he said.

Iesha Sekou, who founded the nonprofit Street Corner Resources initiative against gang violence, said a recession would threaten her group’s funding.

She said, “That work can unwind, get undone, because we won’t have the money when the rainy day comes.”