Angry New Yorker

Saturday, January 10, 2004
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January 9, 2004 -- MAYOR Bloomberg's planned property-tax rebate for New York City homeowners won't provide the same economic boost as a permanent rate cut for all property taxpayers. But it sweeps $250 million off the budgetary table and away from the grasping hands of the municipal labor unions and City Council.
In this crucial respect, Bloomberg's State of the City Address represented a promising start to what is sure to be a difficult and contentious year on the fiscal front.

By contrast, Gov. Pataki's State of the State speech was a study in conflict avoidance. Badly mauled in last year's confrontation with the Legislature, the governor avoided specifics on how he'll deal with the state's massive fiscal problems in 2004-05.

To be sure, Bloomberg hasn't become a born-again conservative, fiscal or otherwise. And even allowing for self-serving hyperbole, the mayor's view of the city's economic prospects is unduly rosy. "Wall Street firms have stayed in this city," he boasted yesterday - although many of the same firms are plowing their resurgent profits into new hiring elsewhere.

While tourism is up, the Big Apple isn't regaining high-wage jobs in the securities industry or the corporate sector, which should be a real source of worry for the future.

The mayor also claimed once again to have "cut spending by $3.3 billion" - a misleading figure derived from higher projections of spending made before he took office. In fact, on Bloomberg's watch the city budget actually has grown by more than $2 billion, which is why his tax hikes were necessary in the first place.

Indeed, it seems clear the mayor still sees no connection between taxes and economic performance or decision-making. Rather, he described the rebate as a matter of recognizing taxpayers for having "sacrificed" and "stepped up to the plate" - as if there was something voluntary about it.


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