Empire Center for
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March 6, 2014
New York State added private jobs at a slower pace than the nation as a whole during the 12-month period ending in January, according to data released today by the state Labor Department.
Year-to-year private job growth map from the state Labor Department
Statewide private employment as of January was up 1.7 percent from a year earlier, compared to 2.1 percent nationally.
Thanks to yet another month of strong job growth in New York City, private employment in the downstate region grew at a faster-than-average 2.5 percent clip. However, the 52 counties categorized as “upstate” by the Labor Department (including Dutchess and Orange, although they are within the downstate Metropolitan Commuter District) created jobs at a much more sluggish pace of just 0.5 percent.
The map at right illustrates a familiar pattern of growth and non-growth by county, with the darkest shadings indicating little or no increase in private-sector employment. The key table from the Labor Department press release is at the end of this post.
The regional variance in job growth continues a multi-year trend.
Despite the not-rosy fiscal status of the county, the Suffolk County Legislature approved the last outstanding contract for county police officers. (In January, Moody’s listed Suffolk County among the municipal bond issuers facing a credit rating downgrade.)
The newly minted contract with the Superior Officers Association will cost taxpayers $55.4 million through 2018. The three police union contracts negotiated by County Executive Steve Bellone since 2012 will come to $372 million — equivalent to about 18 percent of the county’s own-source revenues at the start of the contract period.
February 26, 2014
Photo via NY1
Gov. Cuomo today announced yet another enormous state tax subsidy for the entertainment industry — this time for Disney and Netflix to produce a live-action Internet TV series based on Marvel Comics superheroes in New York City.
The incentive will come out of New York’s $420 million-a-year Film and TV Production Credit program, which reimburses up to 30 percent of production costs in New York. It’s a sweet deal, as explained in an unpublished research study prepared for the governor’s Tax Reform and Fairness Commission last fall:
… Based on IRS industry-specific data, a 30 percent credit would equal about 55 percent of taxable income of a typical film production firm. In 2008 (the latest year for which detailed data are available), the credits received by 31 film production industry taxpayers exceeded the combined tax liability of the entire industry — all 1,600+ firms — in nine of the ten previous years. Because the credit exceeds tax liability many times over and is refundable, in effect it is a program of cash payments by the state to credit recipients. [emphasis added]
February 21, 2014
Gov. Cuomo today signed a bill that further distances him from the longstanding state policy of tying strong oversight strings to deficit bonding requests from fiscally troubled local governments.
The bill in question allows the Long Island city of Long Beach to borrow up to $12 million to deal with its budget deficits — no strings attached.
Legislation allowing the city to borrow was vetoed late last year by Cuomo, who didn’t express any reservations about borrowing, but noted that the deadline for issuing bonds had come and gone. The state Legislature saw this problem coming, though, reintroduced the borrowing bill with a new deadline and no strings attached.
Cuomo already has given a rubber stamp to $96 million of deficit bonding for Rockland County and on this second time around, without any technical errors to hide behind, he broke out the rubber stamp for Long Beach. The governor’s approval message is not yet available, so we don’t know his reasoning for going along with this plan.
In an apparent concession to construction trade unions, one of Governor Cuomo’s 30-day budget bill amendments would effectively require use of project-labor agreements (PLAs) on “design-build” infrastructure contracts of more than $10 million. This raises the likelihood that savings made possible by the use of the design-build method will be undermined by the imposition of PLAs, which favor less efficient union labor.
The amendment also backtracks, in two notable ways, from Cuomo’s original 2014-15 budget proposal to extend the 2011 state Infrastructure Investment Act, which allows more use of “design build” method on public projects:
- The initial budget bill would have made permanent the design-build provisions of the 2011 law, but the 30-day amendment merely extends it for three more years, through 2017.
- While the original bill would have authorized the use of the design-build technique by all counties and larger municipalities, the amended bill erases this expansion to local governments.
February 19, 2014
Anyone with a “permanent place of abode” in New York is required by law to pay income taxes to the state — and to New York City, as well, if the “abode” is there. But if you’re an out-of-state resident who sets up and maintains a rent-free home for your parents in New York, does that make you a New York resident, too?
The state Tax Tribunal said “yes” — and ordered John Gaied, the owner of a Staten Island auto repair shop, to pay $253,062 in back taxes for a three-year period in which Gaied said his home was actually in New Jersey.
Yesterday, however, the Court of Appeals unanimously overturned that decision.
February 17, 2014
An article in The New York Times today touts NBC’s “significant investment” in a state-of-the-art studio at 30 Rockefeller Center for “Tonight” and its new host, Jimmy Fallon.
But the article never mentions who’s footing a chunk of the bill for Tonight’s move back to New York from California: the taxpayers of New York State.
As first reported in the Daily News last spring, the 2013-14 budget included a new tax law provision tailor-made to deliver tax credits to offset up to 30 percent of production costs for “a talk or variety program that filmed at least five seasons outside the state prior to its first relocated season in New York.”
In addition, the episodes “must be filmed before a studio audience” of at least 200 people. And the program must have an annual production budget of at least $30 million or incur at least $10 million a year in capital expenses.
In other words, a program exactly like “The Tonight Show.”
February 14, 2014
Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing the broadest and most concerted facility downsizing effort by any New York governor in recent history, as noted here last summer. In addition to prison closures and consolidations, the governor has proposed shutting down nine psychiatric centers for the acutely mentally ill, consolidating a new institutional network of “Regional Centers of Excellence,” and shifting more of the Office of Mental Health (OMH) budget to”community-based” services.
Unsurprisingly, the psychiatric center closures are being contested by the union representing state employees who work at the centers. But they’re not alone. D.J. Jaffe–a knowledgeable mental health advocate not linked to any of Albany’s deeper-pocketed special interest groups–says the governor’s plan could cost more in the long run by “forc[ing] hundreds of seriously mentally ill patients into jails, shelters, prisons, and morgues.”
February 6, 2014
The New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS) has officially confirmed pretty much what it predicted last fall: the taxpayer-financed pension contribution rate payable in the fall of 2015 will rise to 17.53 percent of teacher payrolls, or 1.28 percent above the contribution payable this coming September.
Based on payroll data in the latest NYSTRS annual report, this will equate to an added cost of about $187 million* for school districts statewide (outside New York City, which has a separate teacher pension fund).
In its new administrative bulletin, NYSTRS says this will be the last year to reflect the impact of major investment losses the pension fund suffered in the wake of the Great Recession and financial crisis, which suggests the pension contribution rate will go down at least a little for 2014-15 school year (payable in fall of 2016). Unfortunately, this will lead many politicians and school board members to jump to the conclusion that the worst is behind them.
February 5, 2014
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New Yorkers pay the second highest motor fuel taxes in the country*, largely to finance a dedicated state fund that was created over 20 years ago to continuously pay for construction and rehab of highways and bridges. However, as the state comptroller reports today, the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund “no longer serves its original purpose of assuring reliable, predictable investment in the future of the State’s transportation infrastructure.”
“The dollars from New York’s motor fuel tax and other dedicated revenue sources, ostensibly intended for new transportation-related capital investment, are instead going primarily to repayment of debt from prior years and current day-to-day operational expenses,” the report says.
This is not a new story — today’s report is an update of one the comptroller issued a few years ago — but the diversion has been getting worse. State Sen. Thomas Libous has repeatedly introduced legislation that would protect the fund against raids, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has not addressed the core transportation funding issue here.