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Budget Breakdown: Budget Process Could Be Discussion Topic In Mayor's Race

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The 2013 mayor's race is just starting to take shape. While the burgeoning field is busy staking out positions on the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy and Mayor Bloomberg's push to ban the sale of large sugary drinks, it is possible that a debate over a decidedly more wonky issue - how the city crafts its annual budget - will surface among the candidates. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Unlike the current mayor and his predecessor, several likely candidates for City Hall are veterans of the city's budget process. That means they are all too familiar with what is known as the budget dance.

The dance happens each year when the mayor proposes cutting funding for things like after-school programs, fire companies and libraries. The council fights back and restores much of the money.

Economist James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute says it is a tradition the city should do away with.

"It is something that all candidates should readily get behind," he says. "A lot of them have been in the council. They know full well how this is such a distraction."

But getting rid of the dance is not high on everyone's priority list.

"I'm not sure that it's really so bad," says Carol Kellermann of the Citizens Budget Commission.

Kellermann says she would like to see the council reform the way it allocates money for member items, which is City Hall's version of pork.

"There should be some sort of a formula that has some sort of relationship to need, however that can be defined," she says.

Kellermann also wants the council to view its budget responsibilities differently. She says that if more time were spent measuring agency performance and pushing for improvements, lawmakers could help the city save money.

It is a reform that would not require any change in the law but it would require the City Council to significantly change its approach to budget negotiations.

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