When I first took office, a lot of people were asking whether New York City was manageable, or if it could be governed at all.
New Yorkers had lost faith in their government's ability to make rational decisions and sensible policies. Increasingly, New York was being seen as a city out of control, unable to deal with its own problems. However, I believed that if government challenged itself to do better, and if we challenged our city and our citizens to do better, we could turn New York around. We could make the positive changes that would ensure a bright and prosperous future.
And we were right. New York is back, as an innovator and national leader -- back, with a new sense of hope and optimism. People are no longer asking is New York governable? They're asking how did we accomplish so much, so fast?
In the last two years, we have seen a larger reduction in crime than in any comparable period in City history -- a reduction of over 27 percent. We have also seen a larger reduction in our welfare rolls than in any comparable period -- with 122,000 fewer people receiving public assistance.
We have stopped the flow of jobs leaving our city, retaining our major employers, and with the addition of 87,000 new jobs, we have seen the first positive growth in our private-sector job base since the 1980s.
We have reduced City spending and the City's workforce by levels unseen since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. But while we have downsized, the quality of life in our city has actually improved.
And now, in our third budget, we are building on the successes of the last two years. Our philosophy is that a budget isn't about numbers, it's about people.
And this year's budget reflects our top priorities: protecting our city's most vulnerable, maintaining public safety, and growing our private-sector job base.
We have preserved funding for programs that help children and the elderly. We have protected spending for direct public safety.
And to further expand our positive job growth, we are proceeding with the largest tax reduction program in City history -- a program that will reduce taxes $3.2 billion by FY 2000.
Through our continuing efforts to reform and reorganize city government, we are gaining new efficiencies, allowing us to fund the bulk of our budget reductions through agency downsizing -- which we hope to accomplish as we have in the past -- without layoffs, and without negatively affecting services.
By preserving the priorities set forth in this budget, we can make the tough choices demanded by fiscal reality, while we continue to build a new attitude in New York City -- an attitude of leadership, of confidence, and of optimism.