Angry New Yorker

Friday, May 30, 2003

May 30, 2003 -- The city's sales tax hike will take effect on Wednesday, city officials announced yesterday, ending confusion over the timing of the increase. City officials set the effective date hours after Mayor Bloomberg had said even he was uncertain when the boost would kick in.

The City Council overwhelmingly approved the increase on Wednesday - but touched off confusion because officials were unable to say when the increase should start being charged to shoppers. The hike, coming days after the state boosts its rate on Sunday, will bring the overall sales tax paid in the city to 8.625 percent, up from the current 8.25 percent.

Thursday, May 22, 2003
Forty-Third Street’s Fiscal Fantasies - When it comes to Gotham’s budget, the New York Times can’t count.
by Steve Malanga

"New York Times readers must have greeted the news of Governor Pataki’s praiseworthy veto of a state budget packed with aid for the city with befuddlement. What could the governor possibly be thinking, they must have wondered, after reading weeks of Times coverage on the subject?

The Times, after all, has been leading the charge for higher taxes, not just on its editorial pages, but on its news pages. In a string of news pieces, the Times has tried to persuade New Yorkers that the crushing city and state tax burden isn’t all that great and that somebody—preferably commuters, but if not them, then businesses and rich New York City residents—should be paying more to bail the city out of its current fiscal mess and keep Gotham from losing supposedly crucial services. In arguing these points, the Times’s news stories conveniently and consistently overlook or omit essential elements in the debate. Call them the Grey Lady’s blind spots. [ed. note - here just in outline form. Access the full article for the rest.]

Blind spot number one: The city’s business community. In many of these stories, the Times seems unaware that New York is home to some 200,000 businesses, many of them extremely small neighborhood enterprises, and that they pay a heavy share of city taxes. Consider a story on Monday’s front page, which claimed that, despite frequent assertions to the contrary by many experts, the city’s taxes really aren’t the highest in the country—and are in some cases actually quite moderate.
* * * *
Blind spot number two: The local economy. In its tax stories, the Times never thinks to ask: What kind of economy do New York and other heavily taxed cities have? And might there be some relationship between high taxes and low economic growth?
* * * *
Blind spot number three: The flight out of New York. In many of its tax stories, the Times likes to ask whether higher taxes will drive away residents. It then usually elicits a perfunctory opinion from someone in the Bloomberg administration, or some other advocate of high taxes, that a few more dollars in even steeper taxes won’t really matter enough to prompt someone to pick up and leave the city. It all sounds so reasonable.
* * * *
New York City has what’s known as a negative net domestic migration—just a fancy way of saying that more residents leave the city for somewhere else than move into New York from elsewhere in the U.S. A 1999 Empire Foundation study of IRS tax records shows that from 1992 through 1997 New York had a negative domestic migration of 477,168—in other words, nearly half a million more people left the city than came here from somewhere else in the U.S.

And those leaving the city have much higher incomes that those coming into it. Take a look at Manhattan, whose upper-income residents will bear the brunt of new city income tax increases. Those leaving Manhattan earn on average about 22 percent more than those coming here. Households moving to Westchester from Manhattan had family incomes of $117,450 a year, about $35,000 more than those who come from Westchester to Manhattan. The spread was nearly as great for migration to Suffolk: $94,441 in household income for those leaving the city to live in Suffolk but about $33,000 less for those moving into Manhattan from the county.

The outflow costs the city plenty, and a lot of the lost revenue ends up in New Jersey because of the high combined state/city tax rates. The Empire Foundation study found that from 1992 through 1997 New York State had a net loss of 116,637 people to New Jersey, representing $2.7 billion in lost taxable income, much of which undoubtedly came from Gotham. And now the city and state are both raising income taxes, further increasing the gap with New Jersey. No wonder the city has a budget crisis, if it is consistently driving away its highest earners.

In light of these statistics, the argument that a few dollars more in taxes won’t matter misses the point. New York is already losing the battle to retain higher income families.

But to advocates of higher taxes, including apparently Times reporters and editors, such data rarely spark much curiosity. Take for instance another recent Times story, which noted that commuters earned on average about $33,000 a year more than workers who were city residents, and that they were more likely to work in high paying city industries like finance. The Times story used the data to suggest that commuters could more easily bear a tax increase than city residents, and so the commuter tax should be reinstated.

But shouldn’t a reasonably inquisitive person ask a simple question of the tax advocates peddling this data: Why do so many of those who work in the best jobs in the city’s most lucrative industries choose to live outside New York? And how many of these high earners used to live in New York? But not the New York Times.

Conspiracy theorists might conclude that the Times’s news pages are helping support the paper’s editorial position on higher taxes. I prefer to think that the Times’s left-leaning news staff has blinkers on. They have trouble seeing the implications in data that contradict their own preconceptions, and trouble formulating questions that challenge their own beliefs.

Of course, that’s not news, just my opinion." [entire article here.]

Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Rent Control and Housing Investment: Evidence from Deregulation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by Henry O. Pollakowski, Housing Economist, MIT Center for Real Estate and Editor, Journal of Housing Economics.
Full report in Acrobat PDF format, here.


Lurking in Depths of New Budget, Bigger Bite for Some Taxpayers, by JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
New York Times

ALBANY, May 20 — "The budget bills that the State Legislature enacted over the governor's vetoes last week stand more than six inches tall, and include hundreds of pages of dense legal writing and numbers that are impenetrable to most people, and even hard for the lawmakers who passed them to understand.

Hidden inside those pages are scores of not-so-obvious details that will have a profound effect on some taxpayers. For instance, legislative leaders sold the personal income-tax increase as a surcharge only on the amount of taxable income a family earns above a certain level. But for people in high-income brackets, the tax is not a surcharge, but simply a tax increase on all their taxable earnings, budget officials and outside experts say.
* * * *

Other surprises are lurking in the pages of the bills. New York City residents got a backdoor cigarette tax increase, because the state will now collect its cigarette tax not just on the price of the cigarettes, but on the price after figuring in the city's tobacco tax. It is a quiet way to raise an extra $11 million without raising the tax rate, budget officials said.

After lobbying from the distilled liquor industry, the lawmakers included a provision in their budget that will allow liquor stores to open on Sundays, as long as they close one other day of the week. The Legislature's theory is that people will buy more alcohol on the weekends, and the state will collect about $11 million more in liquor taxes, though the Pataki administration doubts the validity of that assumption.

But perhaps the biggest surprise in the budget is the income-tax increase on people with high earnings. Since 1991, the state has had a provision that, in essence, says that once taxpayers' adjusted gross income reaches a certain limit — $150,000 for married couples — they must pay the highest rate of tax on all their taxable earnings, rather than paying the lesser tax rates assigned to the parts of their taxable income in the lower brackets. (The top rate was 6.85 percent.) It is known as the "recapture" provision.

On the surface, the surcharge enacted in the Legislature's budget seems simple enough. A married couple with taxable income above $150,000 must pay an additional 0.65 percent on the taxable income above that amount, which works out to be a few hundred dollars in extra taxes in most cases.

But the lawmakers also added another recapture threshold, $200,000 in adjusted gross income, after which the new 7.5 percent rate would be charged on all taxable earnings. Take, for instance, a couple with an adjusted gross income of $200,000 and a taxable income of $180,000 after deductions. They would not only pay the surcharge on the $30,000 above the $150,000 line, a cost of $195, but on their entire taxable earnings. As a practical matter, that means an additional $975, for a total of $1,170 in extra taxes. In short, they would be paying a flat 7.5 percent tax on their taxable income, when under the old law, they would have paid 6.85 percent on all their taxable income.

For those people with adjusted gross income above $500,000, the tax rate jumps to 7.7 percent on all of their taxable income. A couple with $600,000 in adjusted gross income and a taxable income of $524,000, for instance, would pay an extra $4,400 in taxes.
* * * *

The Legislature did the same thing to New York City's income tax rates, but the effect was more drastic because they also added a recapture clause, which the city has never had before. People in the top tax bracket in New York City are now looking at a combined income-tax rate of more than 12 percent, Gov. George E. Pataki said on Monday.

"For the first time, New York City taxpayers are going to be subject to recapture where some of their income that was taxed at a lower rate is all of a sudden taxed at a higher rate," he said as he denounced the Legislature's plan. "It is just obviously in my view extremely detrimental."

The Legislature kept some parts of the governor's proposed budget that many Democrats initially complained would hurt the poor. The sales tax on clothing has been reinstated, for instance, just as Mr. Pataki proposed. The only change is that lawmakers have included only two weeks a year when the tax would be lifted, rather than four as the governor had wanted.

Most of the fees the governor proposed raising are still in the plan. A title for a new car will cost $10, instead of $5. Prison-made license plates will cost $15, rather than $5.50.

* * * *
And while the Legislature raised taxes to pay for restoring school aid and medical services the governor wished to cut, it did nothing to reduce the amount of borrowing Mr. Pataki's budget. Like the governor's plan, the Legislature's budget relies on selling bonds worth $4.2 billion, backed by future payments from tobacco companies from the nationwide court settlement.

The difference is that the Legislature's final budget backs up those bonds with the state's general fund, rather than a special fund fed by the mortgage recording tax, as Mr. Pataki envisioned. The Legislature's version means a lower interest rate, but it makes future taxpayers more liable should the tobacco industry take a nose-dive and the annual payments shrink, budget analysts say.
* * * *
But outside budget analysts say it is irresponsible to use new tax revenues, which amount to about $2.2 billion, to add spending rather than reduce borrowing. "By borrowing and raising taxes and raising spending, the very best case scenario is future budget gaps at least as big as the governor's," Mr. McMahon said.

The budget is also notable for the details left out in some places. In the face of the worse fiscal crisis since the 1930's, the legislative leaders saw fit to appropriate $200 million for member items, a euphemism for money the lawmakers hand out in their districts for everything from V.F.W. halls and Little Leagues to AIDS clinics and soup kitchens.

Many years these items are detailed in long lists in the budget, but this year the lawmakers simply included the lump sum and language saying the leaders of the two houses would decide later how to spend it. This has irked Governor Pataki, who in most budgets gets to allocate a portion of the money himself, usually about $30 million." [entire article here]

Tuesday, May 20, 2003
More Banana Republic Hijinks...

"The Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court yesterday overturned a lower court decision that barred the speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller, and five other council members from running for re-election in November. The court ruled 3-1 that the council acted within its powers last September when it amended the city’s term limits law to allow the six council members to seek another term. For more information on the term limits law, go to "


May 20, 2003 -- The cost of fringe benefits for city employees has skyrocketed 90 percent over the last four years, a new study released yesterday showed. While city workers make $58,660 a year on average, the runaway benefits have pushed up the city's per-employee expense to an astonishing $82,722, according to the report by the Citizens Budget Commission.

The CBC said the average city worker received $12,664 in fringe benefits in 2000 and will collect $24,062 worth of benefits in fiscal year 2004.

As the city faces a severed budget crisis, the CBC found the city's benefit costs soaring much faster than those of the private sector and state and other local governments. * * * *
Salaries for city workers jumped 14.6 percent over the last four years. Pension costs leave all others expenses in the dust, zooming 386 percent during the period.
* * * *

Firefighters and cops reap the biggest fringe-benefit rewards. The average benefit for firefighters and fire officers is $50,776 on salaries that average $74,393. Cops are collecting fringes worth $41,360, on top of salaries averaging $76,665.

Civilian workers who earn an average $46,092 have to make do with $13,673 in benefits. And they're the ones receiving most of the 4,500 pink slips." [more]

New Yorker Issue of 2003-05-26

"Budget crises are traditionally good news for gamblers. Determined not to raise taxes in the face of a severe deficit that promises unpopular spending cuts—zoos and firehouses closed, garbage and schoolchildren left behind—Governor George Pataki last week proposed that the city install video slot machines in its Off-Track Betting parlors. Aspiring millionaires would be spared having to ride the A train to the far reaches of Queens to play the slots at Aqueduct racetrack—which were themselves approved during the previous budget crisis, in 2001—and the state treasury would take in a few hundred million bucks. Everybody wins. But what would a solution be without a spoilsport? “There’s no free lunch in life, and I think one of the problems of using gambling as a way to balance the budget is that it has a cost,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last month to the aptly named radio host John Gambling." [more]

Monday, May 19, 2003
Report Card Flunks 40 Percent of NYC Parks Closed bathrooms. Broken water fountains. Glass-littered ballfields.
By Merle English, Newsday Staff Writer, May 16, 2003

Because of flaws like these, almost 40 percent of the city's neighborhood parks received failing grades in a study by an advocacy group that also found sharp contrasts in park quality, with the most problems in Queens and the Bronx.

The "Report Card on Parks," issued last week by the nonprofit group New Yorkers for Parks, was based on surveys of 181 parks, playgrounds and ball fields, ranging from one to 20 acres.
"These neighborhood parks are the front and backyards of most New Yorkers and deserve better," the report states.

Of the top 10 parks, not one was in Queens or the Bronx. Manhattan had seven -- led by Bryant Park, the only spot to bag a perfect score -- while Staten Island had two and Brooklyn one. The top-rated neighborhood park in Queens -- Doughboy Plaza, a neatly kept oasis in Woodside -- ranked 18th in the city.

Of the city's 10 worst neighborhood parks, however, three were in Queens -- Southern Fields in South Ozone Park, Rainey in Astoria and John Golden in College Point. Four were in the Bronx, including the bottom of the barrel, University Woods, a wooded three acres littered with human feces and the remains of drug use and animal sacrifice. It scored 19%, while Bryant scored 100%.' [more]

Saturday, May 17, 2003

"May 17, 2003 -- ALBANY - A day after tax-and-spend lawmakers overrode Gov. Pataki's budget vetoes, Standard & Poor's lowered its outlook for New York state bonds from "stable" to "negative." The influential Wall Street rating agency's move yesterday could lead to a costly downgrading of the state's bond rating, which Pataki aides expect will follow from the state Legislature's action. * * * *
New York joins 12 other states given "negative" outlooks by S&P: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington and Oregon." [more]

Parking Ticket Prices Go Up Again
NY1, MAY 17TH, 2003

"If you thought the price of a parking ticket was already too high, you'd better be careful where you leave your car. Fines that were recently doubled to help the cash-strapped city are about to go up another $10.

The New York Post reported Saturday that the state Legislature just passed a statewide surcharge on summonses, which means a $105 parking ticket will now cost you $115." [more]


May 16, 2003 -- The city faces a series of frightening budget problems in the years ahead, a disturbing new report warned yesterday. The Independent Budget Office forecast that city government expenses will grow at a rate more than twice that of revenues over the next four years - creating a huge sea of red ink year after year.
* * * *

The IBO said total expenditures will jump from a projected $44.3 billion this year to $45.9 billion next year - a 3.6 percent increase. The agency estimated that, through 2007, spending will rise at an average annual rate of about 3.7 percent, while revenues will increase just 1.7 percent over the same period.

At that rate, total city expenses would reach $51.2 billion by 2007, up $5.3 billion from fiscal year 2004. Revenues will grow by $3.2 billion, up to $47.2 billion in 2007, leaving the multibillion-dollar deficit each year. Growing amounts of debt service, higher pension costs and escalating fringe benefits for municipal workers are the central reasons for the differential.

The IBO report found:

* Debt service will grow at an average rate of 18.6 percent - from just more than $2.7 billion to slightly less than $5.4 billion - over the next four years.

* Pension costs are slated to triple over the same time period, up to nearly $4.9 billion in 2007.

* Fringe-benefit expenses will grow at a more modest 6.3 percent in each of the next four years, up to roughly 3.4 billion in 2007, excluding public-school employees.

All told, spending on these three items will increase $2.9 billion in fiscal year 2004, which starts July 1.

"The mayor has cut discretionary funding by more than $3.2 billion," said Mayor Bloomberg's spokesman, Jordan Barowitz.
"Fixed costs beyond the city's control, such as Medicaid, pensions and debt service, are responsible for our expenditures outpacing our revenue," Barowitz added." [more]

Friday, May 16, 2003
State Legislature Overrides Pataki on Budget Vetoes

ALBANY, May 15 — "For the first time in two decades, New York's Legislature overrode a governor's vetoes of its spending plan today. The lawmakers revived a budget that increases state taxes to restore billions of dollars in spending on schools, hospitals, nursing homes and localities.

Moving deliberately and in a coordinated fashion rarely seen in Albany, both Republicans and Democrats rolled over George E. Pataki, the three-term Republican governor, who seemed resigned to losing the biggest governing battle of his career. . . . The process began shortly after 11 a.m. The Democratic Assembly finished overriding all 119 vetoes by 3:26 p.m. The Republican Senate, which had started the process later, finished soon afterward, passing all 119 overrides unanimously.
* * * *
The process departed from the usual custom in Albany of governing by three men in a room: Mr. Pataki; Senator Joseph L. Bruno, the Republican majority leader; and Sheldon Silver, the Democratic Assembly speaker, who normally decide issues and get their conferences to rubber-stamp them.
* * * *
By leaving the possibility of lawsuits open, he left an air of uncertainty over a budget that appeared to be all but resolved, more than 40 days late but still earlier than in many other years. The state has missed the April 1 budget deadline every year for 19 years in a row.
" [more]

Mayor Bloomberg display dual-mode muddled thinking... More TK

Thursday, May 15, 2003
Tax Hike Gouges NYC Metro Region

In an era of steeply progressive taxation, New York State's local government aid formulas inevitably have a Robin Hood effect-redistributing income from the relatively wealthy New York City metropolitan area to relatively poorer regions north of the Bear Mountain Bridge. " [more]

Striking Back at Legislature, Pataki Vetoes Tax Increases

ALBANY, May 14 — "Gov. George E. Pataki signed his name to 119 vetoes today, making good on his pledge to reject the tax increases and much of the new spending proposed by state lawmakers in a budget they passed over his objections.

Acting just under deadline, the governor said he was striking out $1.3 billion in spending added by the Legislature, and vetoing the entire revenue bill its budget is based on
." [more]

Judge Orders Fare Increases Rescinded for New York City, By RANDY KENNEDY

"State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority yesterday to rescind the transit and commuter fare increases that were approved two months ago, ruling that the authority violated state law by misleading the public about its finances.

But the decision does not mean fares will be rolled back immediately — and if they are rolled back, it may not be permanent. The authority said it would appeal, and even if the ruling is upheld, the M.T.A. could vote again for higher fares
." [more]

Tuesday, May 13, 2003
I've been asking Rumsfeld to send the Marine Expeditionery Unit to Albany for weeks; now that they're work is finished in Iraq they're needed here in New York. "Calling General Tommy Franks! General Franks to a white courtesy phone." From the Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, May 13, 2003:

New York Crisis: Empire State? Try Banana Republic! by John Steele Gordon

"The once mighty Empire State has become a banana republic. Long the most populous and powerful state in the Union, the home state of six presidents (and 11 vice presidents), New York dominated American politics and the economy through much of the nation's history. It was an engine of legal and economic innovation, daring, and reform in the country as well.

Today, New York is only the third most populous state. It has lost 10 seats in Congress in just the last 30 years. And while New York long had the highest state credit rating in the nation, today it has only an AA- and has sunk as low as A-, just above junk status. The state has the highest debt per capita and the highest taxes as well. Despite great natural advantages, its economic growth is, to be charitable, anemic. New York has become the sick man of the American Union.

The only political innovation in New York these days is the endless creativity the government in Albany brings to devising new smoke and mirrors to hide the fiscal disaster it presides over. In 1992, for instance, it balanced its expense budget -- which the state constitution requires be balanced -- by selling Attica State Prison to itself. A state agency sold $200 million worth of bonds, turned over the proceeds to the state, and took title to the prison, which it now rents to the state.

Ken Lay, call your office.

It was the Erie Canal that gave the Empire State its commercial empire. The largest public work in world history up to that time, the canal was a gigantic gamble. And yet the state built it entirely on its own, bringing the project in under budget and ahead of schedule in 1825.

The gamble paid off big time. By providing a vastly cheaper and quicker means for shipping the produce of the Midwest to the eastern seaboard, New York became, in the rather grumpy words of the Boston poet Oliver Wendell Holmes (father of the judge), "that tongue that is licking up the cream of commerce of a continent." In 1800, New York City handled about 8% of the country's exports. By 1860 it was 62%. By the 1920s, it was the busiest port in the world. * * * *

But in the 20th century, New York allowed a fundamental tendency of society -- institutions will evolve in ways that benefit their elites -- to operate unchecked in state government. The result has been government of the people by the politicians for the special interests, to an extent unknown elsewhere in the country -- perhaps in the democratic world.

The central institution in any state government is its legislature, and New York, in a very real sense, doesn't have one anymore. Instead it has two colleges of cardinals. Once the Senate has elected a majority leader and the Assembly a speaker at the beginning of each term, the members might as well go home for all the power they have to shape legislation. The speaker and majority leader determine the agenda in each house, name committee chairmen, determine committee assignments, and hand out other perks and the handsome salaries (called "lulus" in Albany parlance) that go with them. Any member who gets out of line will find his or her lulus taken away. (Members don't even have to be present to vote. Once they sign in in the morning, they are automatically counted as voting "yes" on every bill unless they show up to vote "no.")

It is the speaker and the majority leader, not the Assembly and the Senate, who determine the budget with the governor. And the budget has not been passed on time in almost two decades as the back-room log-rolling among the three about whose special interests -- unions, school districts, hospitals, etc. -- will get the most attention (and money) drags on. As a result, the state budget has ballooned far beyond the economic growth needed to pay for it.

This utter perversion of democratic government is possible only because there are virtually no competitive elections for the state legislature. Each house draws up its own district lines, with incumbent protection the only criterion. Although both Democratic and Republican governors have carried the state by landslides in the last three decades, neither house of the legislature has changed hands in that time. The Senate is permanently Republican, the Assembly permanently Democratic. And New York State government is permanently dysfunctional as a result.

Is there a solution?

Well, the state constitution requires that a proposition be placed on the ballot every 20 years, asking if a constitutional convention should be called. The last one, in 1997, attracted almost no media attention beyond a New York Times editorial urging its defeat, and even fewer votes. Fourteen years is a long time to wait for a government that has become an on-rushing fiscal train wreck to be reformed.

Instead, the state media should begin demanding action, exposing Albany horror stories (there is no shortage) and endorsing candidates who run on a platform of giving New York a real legislature, regardless of which party they belong to.

Or perhaps disenfranchised New Yorkers could ask Donald Rumsfeld to send in Tommy Franks and restore our lost democracy. Hey, it seems to be working in Baghdad." ---
Mr. Gordon is the author of "A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable" (Walker, 2002).

Monday, May 12, 2003
New York City Budget Game

From Gotham Gazette - In an effort to close the city's $3.8 billion deficit, public officials have been playing the usual budget games - laying off workers, raising taxes, and threatening to close firehouses and zoos. Now you too can the interactive NYC Budget Game, you can play too. You spend the money. You make the cuts. You raise and lower the taxes.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

By Nicholas Johnson and Rose Ribeiro

States have closed, or are closing, about $80 billion in budget shortfalls for the current fiscal year (which ends June 30 in most states) and another $79 billion in shortfalls for FY 2004, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Forced by balanced budget requirements to close these deficits, states have been cutting important programs and services, including education, health care, and public safety.

Now the crisis appears to be worsening. New data show that in a number of states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, revenues for April fell short of expectations, so these states are raising their deficit forecasts. Clearly, states are unlikely to pull out of the fiscal crisis by themselves anytime soon. Without new revenues, states are likely to enact increasingly painful budget cuts. [PDF of full report]

No, New York, You Don't Pay Highest Taxes

By JANNY SCOTT, New York Times

"New Yorkers take a perverse pleasure in their city's superlatives. They pride themselves on its biggests and its bests, and congratulate themselves on enduring its worsts. They like to imagine that their city is at the top of every list. Or at the bottom. But not in the middle.

Taxes and deficits are suddenly the city's hottest superlatives: the budget deficit is the worst in decades; Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's property tax increase is the biggest in history. The income tax rates and sales tax rates are gaining altitude, leaving New Yorkers feeling superlatively besieged.

No question, New Yorkers pay a lot in taxes and are about to pay more. But some studies that have compared the tax burden in cities and states nationwide in recent years show that New York City has not been at the top of the list for every tax rate and that all New Yorkers are not hit equally hard.

In a study published last summer by the District of Columbia comparing the taxes owed by families in the district and in each state's largest city, the overall major tax burden on lower-income New Yorkers was lower than the burden on comparable people in 24 of the cities studied, including Minneapolis and Seattle.

The more money New York families made, the higher their tax burdens rose in the rankings with the other cities. For families making $150,000 a year, the top income category studied, the tax burden in New York City ranked fifth — behind Bridgeport, Conn.; Newark; Providence, R.I.; and Des Moines.

In that study, based on 2001 data, the effective property tax rate in New York City, taking into account the assessment level, ranked fifth from the bottom, just above Cheyenne, Wyo. The gasoline tax rate in New York City was third from the bottom, one-quarter the rate in Las Vegas.

"In the lower-income categories, New York is very competitive," said Edmund J. McMahon, a fiscal analyst and senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research organization. "New York State's and New York City's tax code is designed to be very progressive and to favor poor people.

"It is, however, relatively heavy on the middle class and heaviest of all on upper-income people. When you start going up, New York's ranking starts creeping up with income."

Mr. McMahon added: "The higher your income, the more likely the city is going to impose a much higher tax burden than you will find elsewhere, even in expensive suburbs. Because if you have expensive housing in the city, you'll have a decent property tax bill, plus you'll have a high income tax bill."

A study of local property taxes, income taxes and sales taxes done in 2000 by the city's Independent Budget Office found that New York City homeowners paid significantly more taxes than their counterparts in the city's suburbs and upstate New York. Downstate homeowners paid more than those upstate.

But the average household income in the city and suburbs was 56 percent higher than the average upstate. Taking into account that greater ability to pay, the budget office concluded that the city's tax burden ranked 18th among all New York counties, 11 percent higher than the average in the rest of the state.

* * * *

Comparing the tax burdens of cities is difficult. Cities have different combinations of state and local taxes — property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, vehicle taxes, liquor taxes, cigarette taxes, taxes on utility bills — and rates differ.

"A common thing happens," said Nicholas Johnson, director of the state fiscal project at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research institute in Washington. "I'm going to compare my jurisdiction to another. Well, it may be that the other jurisdiction levies some kinds of taxes I didn't know existed — a weird telecommunications tax or a special property tax."

One study, by the Tax Foundation, a tax research group supported by the tax departments of large corporations, tries to compute the total tax burden as a percentage of all income earned in each state, taking into account every tax, including taxes on corporate and personal income, cigarettes and liquor.

In that study, New York and Maine tied for first place in 2002 in combined state and local tax burdens. Critics suggest that the study exaggerates New York's tax burden by failing to adjust for the fact that some of the income tax revenue collected by New York comes from people living in other states...." [more]

Friday, May 09, 2003
Save Our City, Mike Bloomberg tries to tax his way out of hard times. May 9, 2003, Wall Street Journal

By Hugh Carey, Richard Gilder, H. Dale Hemmerdinger, Roger Hertog, Felix G. Rohatyn and Walter B. Wriston

"Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood on the steps of the New York state capitol and thanked legislators for "coming through" for his city, by giving him permission to impose $700 million in new taxes on Gotham, bringing to nearly $3 billion the total tax increases enacted by the city since the mayor took office. * * * *
Long-term, the damage to the city's economy could be profound. Over the last four decades, New York City has become the most heavily taxed city in America. And as a result, Gotham has not added a single net new private-sector job over that period of time, while local government jobs have grown by more than 20% -- 90,000 positions.

The private sector in New York has stagnated because high taxes have driven both businesses and individuals out of town. The city perpetually has a net outflow of residents -- more people leave the city to live elsewhere in the U.S. than come here from somewhere else in America. The outflow is especially intense among families earning more than $100,000 a year. Yet the city is again increasing the tax rates on these individuals, arguing that they are most able to bear the added costs of higher taxes."


May 9, 2003 -- "HER husband hated the idea. Her kids had to be persuaded.
But next month, Barbara Ray and husband Clay Brown, along with their boys, Hans and William, are joining a feared middle-class exodus straight out of this city, and into the eager arms of New Jersey.

Service cuts, tax hikes and - most importantly - schools, conspired to make them downshift from the land of 24-hour delis and into the low-caffeine wilds of Maplewood. So, Mr. Bloomberg - will you ask the family aboard the last moving van heading through the Holland Tunnel to switch off the lights?

"We like living in the city," Barbara, a stay-at-home mom from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, told me.

"It just seems the time to go."
Clay Brown is a self-employed set designer. With Hans, 5, ready for kindergarten, and William, 3, close behind, they faced having to shell out nearly $40,000 a year for private school.
"If we figured we couldn't afford it, the class sizes [in public schools] are now threatening to go up," said Barbara. "You can't experiment with your kids. As far as services go, we have the Red Hook [public] pool," she said. "It's nice, but depressing, all concrete. The children can't bring in any toys."

That pool is now being measured for a possible padlock, as budget-cutters eye slashing recreation. But possibly the last straw came when the mayor threatened to shut down the Prospect Park Zoo. "That one really upset me," said Barbara. "And they just spent millions renovating it! They are doing cuts more in the boroughs than in Manhattan," said Barbara, who agrees something has to go to balance the budget. But even her firehouse, Engine Co. 204, is slated for closure, while Bloomy's Upper East Side house will be saved.

The Ray-Browns did the math. They got a healthy offer on the brownstone they bought in the mid-'90s for $360,000. They bought a six-bedroom house in Maplewood - without a mortgage.

Property taxes there total $11,000, far more than the $1,800 they paid in Brooklyn, before the 18.5 percent hike.

"Compared with sending two kids to private school, that's a deal," Barbara said.

Now the kids are growing excited, while the city grows poorer with their loss. As for Clay, "he's getting used to it."

Trying to Differentiate Between Modest and Steep
By DENNIS HEVESI, New York Times

"Apartment owners throughout the city have been pummeled recently by maintenance and common-charge increases averaging 10 percent — although some have been staggered by punches of more than 20 percent, according to co-op and condominium specialists.

In December, as building boards began planning their budgets for this year, industry analysts were predicting a quadruple whammy: an 18.5 percent property-tax increase, soaring insurance premiums, the fuel costs from a bitter winter and an unknown: contract negotiations for 28,000 building workers.

But with the contract settlement last month carrying a 3.5 percent increase in wages and benefits, that quadruple has turned out to be a triple whammy.
" [more]

Missing Share of Sacrifice, Unions Seem Immune as City Hall Cuts Costs


"Shoppers will soon pay more in sales taxes, and smokers more in cigarette taxes. Property owners are already paying more in real estate taxes, and upper-income New Yorkers are staring at a surcharge on their income taxes. Subway and bus fares are up. So are rents.

The only ones who seem immune from the pain of the city's and state's budget deals are New York's powerful labor unions. Of course, union members are facing 3,000 layoffs, but Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg says more is needed from the unions for them to share adequately in the sacrifices asked of New Yorkers.
" [more]

Thursday, May 08, 2003

  • Class A Vacancies fell from 26.33 million RSF to 26.07 million RSF.
  • Total Market Vacancies declined from 48.19 million RSF to 47.89 million RSF, as both Total Direct and Sublease vacancies fell from 34.01 million RSF to 33.76 million RSF and from 14.18 to 14.13 million RSF respectively.
  • Midtown vacancies rose from 25.16 million RSF to 25.82 million RSF, while both Midtown South and Downtown vacancies declined from 10.47 million RSF to 9.82 million RSF and from 12.56 million RSF to 12.25 million RSF respectively.
  • Total Vacant Space in Midtown continued its year long rise as Total Direct Lease space increased from 17.03 million RSF to 17.67 million RSF and Total Sublease vacancies increased to 8.15 million RSF.
  • The decrease in total vacancies in Midtown South was largely a result of a decline in Direct Lease availabilities from 7.57 million RSF to 6.99 million RSF. During the same period Total Sublease vacancies fell slightly to 2.84 million RSF.
  • While Total Direct Lease vacancies fell from 9.41 million RSF to 9.11 million RSF, Total Sublease availabilities remained unchanged

    TODAY'S LEAD STORIES... From Gotham Gazette., May 2003

    Trash Collection "Sanitation officials said yesterday that the city will pick up garbage less frequently in two-thirds of the city's neighborhoods beginning in July. The city plans to cut trash collections by one pickup a week and reduce weekly recycling to once every other week. In congested parts of Manhattan and the Bronx, pickups would continue at current levels. Even with proposed increases in the sales and personal income tax negotiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York State Legislature last week, the Sanitation Department still plans to lay off 500 people and use overtime workers to make up the difference. Last year, the City Council was able to restore proposed sanitation cuts, but it is unclear if there will be sufficient funds in the city budget to do so this year. " [more]

    Wednesday, May 07, 2003
    Bloomberg Spoke of Plan A but Knew It Was Not to Be by AL BAKER and JENNIFER STEINHAUER

    Even as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was denouncing a sales tax increase as regressive and professing the benefits of a commuter tax on Thursday, he had already moved beyond his dream of taxing people who work in the city but live in its suburbs, officials in state and city government said today.
    By the middle of last week, Mr. Bloomberg was cobbling together a deal to increase the sales and income taxes of city residents, a solution that replicated what the state's two top legislative leaders had devised to bail the state out of its own budget mess, the officials said. [more]

    Rising Costs Give New Yorkers Sticker Shock Rising Costs Give New Yorkers Sticker Shock

    You can be forgiven if you had the impression yesterday that New York had suddenly turned into a city of self-taught accountants, nervously computing number after depressing number. [more]

    Tuesday, May 06, 2003


    May 6, 2003 -- WHEN New York City teetered on the verge of bankruptcy in 1975, Gov. Hugh Carey declared "the days of wine and roses" were over and provided leadership to avert disaster. He united government, labor and bankers behind a carefully crafted plan that forced the city to repudiate the fiscal outrages of the Lindsay years and to overhaul its governing institutions. [more]

    NYPOST.COM Post Opinion: Editorials: THANKS FOR NOTHING
    "May 6, 2003 -- Mayor Bloomberg yesterday thanked City Council Speaker Giff Miller, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno for backing a "bailout" package for Gotham.
    Bloomberg says it will allow him to skirt a "doomsday budget."
    Wrong: This is the doomsday budget." [more]

    Taxed to Our Limit

    "Mayor Michael Bloomberg and legislative leaders have earned a moment to pat themselves on the back after devising a plan to get the city and state through this year's disastrous fiscal crisis. The combination of income taxes for wealthier New Yorkers and sales taxes for everybody is the only politically workable route out of this year's $12 billion financial hole for the state and $3.8 billion for the city. Still, this is no time to break open the Champagne. If this package becomes law, the state and city will have pushed taxes up about as far as they can go, and there is another budget gap looming next year." [more] When even the New York Times thinks taxes are at their limit you know things are out of countrol.

    Taxing Til We Drop, by By E.J. McMAHON (See also NY Fiscal Watch.)

    "BY any standard, the revenue bill passed by the state Legislature last week was a real blockbuster - raising taxes on a scale that would dwarf anything enacted during the rolling fiscal crisis that punctuated Gov. Mario Cuomo's tenure.

    • If the Senate and Assembly muster enough votes to override Gov. Pataki's expected veto, New Yorkers will be hit with at least $5.4 billion in new taxes over the next three years. That's $1.8 billion more than the total amount of new taxes imposed during the last five years of Cuomo's tenure.

    • During the 2003-04 fiscal year alone, the Legislature is seeking to raise state personal-income, business and sales taxes by a total of $3 billion. By comparison, the worst tax hike enacted under Cuomo was less than half as large - valued at $1.25 billion in 1990-91.



    "May 5, 2003 -- The ink was barely dry on the fiscally ruinous tax-and-spend bill passed Friday by the state Legislature when the gloating began. * * * * Class warfare is self-defeating. Because people whose pockets are constantly being picked do something about it. They stop working, and investing, if they can't keep the fruits of their labor.
    Or they go away. From New York, for instance. Consider the impact of Friday's action:

    • Nearly every broad-based tax - on income, purchases, business activity, name it - will go up. Astronomically.
    • Top income-tax rates rise 12.4 percent (from 6.85 percent to 7.7 percent).
    • State sales tax climbs 6.25 percent (from 4 percent to 4.25 percent).
    • Spending sets a record: $93 billion.
    • In Gotham, as McMahon notes, combined city and state income tax would rise to a whopping 11.35 percent - the highest in America, and double the rates of neighboring states.
    • And a city income-tax hike already agreed to - but not yet passed - will push that rate to well over 12 percent.
    • Perhaps worst of all, the state plan calls for borrowing some $4.2 billion, cash that won't be available next year

    * * * *

    Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg was pleased as punch with the new arrangements - even though much of it will come from his own constituents:

    • The city's portion of the sales tax - currently 4.25 percent - rises about 3 percent (to 4.37 percent). On top of the state sales-tax hike, the total will soar to 8.62 percent in the city.
    • The separate city income tax would also rise, particularly on the rich.

    BUT while Mayor Mike rejoices ("It's going to be a wonderful day and a nice weekend," he said Friday), city-dwellers should mull this: Bloomberg sold this year's property-tax hike by promising an offsetting income-tax reduction. Now, under the Bruno-Silver-Bloomberg plan, not only would Gothamites get no offsetting tax cut; they'd actually be hit with four big added hikes - in the city sales tax, the state sales tax, city income tax and state income tax. " [more]

    Pataki's veto strategy may succeed in Assembly
    By ERIKA ROSENBERG, (Original publication: May 5, 2003)

    "ALBANY — Republican Gov. George Pataki's best chances for killing the $93 billion state budget he despises might lie not in the GOP-controlled Senate but in the Democratic-dominated Assembly, observers say.
    Pataki has more party brethren in the Senate, but they have broken with him, voting overwhelmingly last week for budget bills that he criticized as heading New York toward a financial train wreck. Most of the 24 Democrats in the Senate are likely to go along with an override of vetoes that Pataki has promised for the Legislature's version of the budget." [more]

    What next? Ok... where is this going to end? I know how it's going to end, badly. Just tell me where and when.

    First... Board Authorizes Jumps in Rent Up to 8.5 Percent.
    "Setting the stage for what would be the largest rent increases since 1989, the New York City Rent Guidelines Board gave landlords preliminary approval last night to raise rents up to 8.5 percent for the one million apartments affected by rent stabilization." [more]

    City Water Board Approves 5.5 Percent Rate Increase. "On top of property tax hikes, a higher sales tax and income tax surcharges, New York City residents will soon be paying more for water. The Water Board on Monday voted to raise the rate by 5.5 percent. That's lower than the originally proposed 6.5 percent." [more]

    Is the price of anything in this city staying the same? It's starting to get very ugly.

    Friday, May 02, 2003
    Deal Sets City Tax Increases to Limit Layoffs by JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.

    ALBANY, May 2 — "Legislative leaders reached an agreement today with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that would allow New York City to increase taxes on sales and income to stave off severe layoffs the mayor had threatened.
    In a separate action, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed the final piece of the state budget over the threat of a veto from Gov. George E. Pataki. That bill would increase the state sales tax for two years and impose a three-year surcharge on people in high-income brackets. The vote on the revenue bill set the stage for a veto-override battle that legislative leaders predict they will win.
    Taken together, the state budget and the city aid package would cause the sales tax to rise one-quarter of a percentage point outside New York City and three-eighths of a point inside the city. Statewide, income taxes would rise to 7.5 percent, from 6.85 percent, on taxable earnings above $100,000 for single people or above $150,000 for married couples. City residents would pay a small added surcharge above that, yet to be decided. There would be no tax on commuters, even though the mayor had sought one.
    If approved, the tax and aid package would help bridge a budget gap brought on by the city's worst fiscal crisis since the 1970's, which threatened to reverse New York's re-emergence as a livable metropolis
    ." [more]

    Ok. Let's get this straight... we pay Fed taxes.. of oh, what, 28%, then social security of 7.5%, then NY state taxes of around 6%, then NYC taxes, then property taxes (which went up more than 19%), then a jump in subway prices of 33%, and then a sales tax on everything else of 8.75.
    My question: what's left of MY money at the end of the day in this, the so-called "greatest" city in the world?

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?