Empire Center for
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Fiscal Watch Memos
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December 5, 2013
The expected state court battle over newly enacted public pension changes in Illinois will bear close watching throughout the country–especially in New York. That’s because, when it comes to protecting pension benefits, the 1970 Illinois State Constitution closely follows the wording of New York’s 1938 State Constitution.
Article V, Section 7 of the New York State Constitution reads as follows:
After July first, nineteen hundred forty, membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.
November 27, 2013
Over the past few days, Governor Cuomo has made it clearer than ever that his “tax cut” focus next year will be on something that can be more accurately described as a tax shift: the creation of a new property tax “circuit breaker” credit that homeowners could claim on their state income taxes. The credit would rebate a portion of local property taxes, to the extent that they exceed some set percentage of each homeowner’s income. (For an example, see this Assembly bill.)
Cuomo also made it clear that he doesn’t want to touch the state’s largest revenue source–the personal income tax, or PIT– because, he said on the Capitol Pressroom radio show, “we just did the PIT last year … in the budget.” In fact, what Cuomo and the Legislature “just did” with the income tax in the 2013-14 state budget was to temporarily extend, for three more years, a 29 percent tax hike on individuals earning more than $1 million and couples earning more than $2 million, which was previously due to expire at the end of 2014.
November 22, 2013
In 2011, Suffolk County passed a local law (Article I, Section 77-4) barring county elected officials from collecting two public-sector salaries. Now, however, County Executive Steve Bellone wants to change the law to make an exception for Monica Martinez, a newly elected county legislator who also is an assistant principal at the Brentwood School District’s East Middle School.
Ms. Martinez is the sister of the Babylon deputy town supervisor, who is close to Bellone, and she won a primary challenge against another Democrat who was not a loyal soldier. Local political considerations aside, the situation raises interesting questions about the nature of public employment and elective office.
November 20, 2013
In 2008, around the time the Empire Center launched its transparency website SeeThroughNY, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was moving on the same track with the creation of OpenBookNewYork. [Then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo would soon do something similar with Project Sunlight, now OpenGovernmentNY.]
The strongest feature of the original OpenBook was a list of state contracts. In a major enhancement of his site, DiNapoli just posted what amounts to the state’s checkbook register, showing payments made with our tax dollars.
November 19, 2013
Senate Republicans have issued a preliminary report laying out a series of state tax reform options and recommendations while also calling for a 2 percent cap on state spending to generate a “freedom fund” to pay for further tax reductions.
Like last week’s recommendations by Governor Cuomo’s Tax Reform and Fairness Commission, the Senate report contains some interesting ideas. Some are better than others–but at least one is downright awful (see below).
November 14, 2013
The report of Governor Cuomo’s Tax Reform and Fairness Commission is a useful, well researched collection of interesting and provocative ideas — some much better than others. Not a bad place to start a further exchange of ideas leading to a fruitful debate on the topic, assuming such a thing is possible in Albany. (One can always dream.)
For example, the report is very good on the subject of how to “modernize” (i.e., broaden) the sales tax base. But takes a wrong turn in recommending what ought to be done with the money raised by these changes.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has approved a $96 million deficit bonding bailout for Rockland County — with no strings attached, other than once-a-year review of the county executive’s budget proposal by the state comptroller. The bill sets a terrible precedent, signaling distressed municipalities across New York that they, too, might be able to buy time with borrowed money. And, like Rockland — but unlike New York City, Buffalo, Yonkers, Troy, Erie and Nassau counties–they might do it without having to deal with a temporary state control board takeover of their finances.
November 8, 2013
Moody’s Investor Service has just lowered the New York State Thruway Authority’s senior lien revenue bond rating by a notch, from A2 to A1, citing the authority’s failure to identify a plan for raising tolls sufficiently to finance the building of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Standard & Poor’s last month did much the same thing, for essentially the same reason.
Eight days past the statutory deadline, Governor Cuomo’s Division of the Budget (DOB) has finally released a required mid-year update to the state financial plan.
The report is not only late for a third consecutive year; at first glance, in what’s becoming a Cuomo administration tradition, it features minimal new information. For example, the 2014-15 budget gap is still projected at $1.7 billion, even though data from state Comptroller DiNapoli’s office suggest it will be much smaller. More analysis to follow in this space.
Meanwhile, and probably not by coincidence, DiNapoli was the only player in the state budget development process who met Wednesday’s deadline for issuing revenue estimates in advance of next Friday’s statutory deadline for a Quick Start consensus forecast. The Senate Finance and Assembly Ways & Means Committee staffs, on both the majority and minority sides, are overdue in preparing their revenue estimates, presumably awaiting the Mid-Year report and DOB’s 2013 Economic, Spending and Revenue Methodologies report, also released today .
November 5, 2013
Older Posts »
Although the botched Affordable Care Act (ACA) rollout is shaping up nationally as a political and bureaucratic disaster, the Cuomo administration is warning New York health insurance agents and brokers not to try to get around the new Obamacare requirements for small group health plans here. *See postscript below.