Empire Center for
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Manhattan Institute
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April 22, 2014


E.J. McMahon

New York’s newly enacted state budget includes what looks like the biggest, juiciest capital pork pie Albany has cooked up since before the Great Recession.

The State and Municipal Facilities Program first popped out of the budget oven last year in the form of a $385 million appropriation, of which $26.65 million was spent.

The program parameters were pretty broad to start with, authorizing funding of capital construction, rehab or improvement of facilities owned by the state, county governments and municipalities; water and sewer districts; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and both SUNY and CUNY.


Filed under: Debt, Uncategorized

April 21, 2014

Transparency, not

E.J. McMahon

They've got a secret

They've got a secret

Last week, at a Manhattan news conference that was also “live-streamed” on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s website, the chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the president of Local 100 of the Transit Workers Union signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) reflecting a tentative contract deal that will shape the MTA’s labor compensation costs for years to come. The governor sat between the MTA’s Tom Prendergast and the TWU’s John Samuelson and looked on as the deal was done.

During the news conference, Prendergast and Samuelson outlined and commented on general terms of the agreement, which also were summarized in this news release from the governor’s office (and, subsequently, on the TWU’s own website).

But what, specifically, was on that all-important piece of paper?


April 17, 2014

NY job growth trails nation again

E.J. McMahon

Dark = slow or no growth from 3/13 to 3/14

Job growth in the Empire State trailed the nation once again in March. New York’s 12-month increase in payroll jobs was 1.5 percent, compared to a 2 percent growth rate throughout the U.S, according to the state Department of Labor (DoL).

Ninety percent of New York’s net new private-sector jobs — 97,900 out of 108,200 — materialized in the downstate region (i.e., New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley up to the northern borders of Dutchess and Orange).

On a seasonally adjusted basis, New York State added no jobs at all between February and March, a period in which employment nationally grew by 0.2 percent.


Filed under: Economy, Uncategorized

Google guy to weigh in on school tech funds?

E.J. McMahon

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has been named by Governor Cuomo to a commission “charged with advising the State on how to best invest the Governor’s proposed $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act in order to enhance teaching and learning through technology,” as announced by the governor’s office today.*

Schmidt provided this quote for the governor’s press release:

“To prepare today’s students to compete in the global innovation economy, schools need to provide modern educational environments that include the latest technology. New York State’s efforts to upgrade classrooms with critical infrastructure like high-speed broadband and to equip students with digital devices are welcome first steps in achieving that goal.”

Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? By pumping more dollars for tech purchases into what’s already America’s best-funded K-12 education system, the proposed $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act will expand an important market for Google, which competes with Apple and Microsoft to sell laptops, tablet computers and other devices to schools. Did this somehow escape the governor’s notice?

Oddly enough, the two other new appointees to the Smart Schools Commission are not named Tim Cook or Bill Gates.  They are Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO for Harlem Children’s Zone, and Constance Evelyn, Superintendent of the Auburn School District in Cayuga County.

New Yorkers will have the final say on whether to create more customers for Google borrow $2 billion to buy more computers, whiteboards and other tech stuff for schools in a statewide referendum in November.

* The original version of this post erroneously stated that Schmidt would chair the commission.  He won’t — he’s just one of the members.

Filed under: Education, Uncategorized

April 15, 2014

How competitive is NY? (cont’d…)

E.J. McMahon

New York State’s relative economic performance wasn’t so hot in the recent past — but its outlook for the future is worse, according to the just-released 7th Annual Rich States, Poor States report, an economic competitiveness index produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The report—co-authored by noted supply-side economist Arthur Laffer Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams—ranks states in two ways.


Filed under: Economy, Taxes, Uncategorized

April 14, 2014

For whom the income tax tolls

E.J. McMahon

By midnight on April 15, more than 8.5 million personal income tax returns for 2013 will have been filed with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Roughly one-third of those filers will owe nothing, and big chunk of total PIT receipts will come from a tiny fraction of high-income taxpayers.

The highest-earning 1 percent of New York PIT payers are expected to have total tax liability of $16.2 billion, or 42.3 percent of total tax liability for 2013, according to estimates in the Economic and Revenue Outlook volume of the 2014-15 Executive Budget (see p. 175). The income of the top 1 percent begins at $838,572, the Division of the Budget (DOB) estimates.

Note: At least one commenter on this blog asked what share of income is earned by the top 1 percent.  Good question! Unfortunately, the budget does not contain that statistic for 2013. But other data consistently have indicated that the share of income reported by the top 1 percent is less than its share of New York state income tax liability. For example, a separate stable in the budget projects that, in 2014, filers with incomes above $1 million will pay 41.3 percent of the PIT while reporting 26.2 percent of adjusted gross income.


Filed under: Taxes, Uncategorized

April 11, 2014

How competitive is New York?

E.J. McMahon

New York perennially lands at or near the bottom of state rankings based heavily on measures of government spending, taxes and regulatory burdens. However, taking account of other factors that play more to New York’s strengths, the Empire State’s ranking soared to 26th in the 13th Annual State Competitiveness Report, just issued by the Beacon Hill Institute of Boston, Ma.

The BHI’s index is derived from rankings on eight sub-indexes designed to represent factors considered important to promoting economic growth. Within those sub-indexes, the Empire State’s lowest rankings were 45th in Government & Fiscal Policy, which includes taxes and spending, and 50th in Infrastructure, which includes measures of housing affordability and energy costs as well as commuting times.


Filed under: Economy, Uncategorized

April 8, 2014

Touching the bases on the budget

E.J. McMahon

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling New York’s newly enacted budget a “Grand Slam.” But while the fiscal 2014-15 spending plan enacted last week certainly can’t be written off as the worst swing and miss ever, it’s far from a base-clearing, walk-off home run.

Prolonging the metaphorical torture, here are some budget scoring notes from a taxpayers’ perspective.


Filed under: Budgets, Uncategorized

March 27, 2014

Broken record for upstate economy

E.J. McMahon

Year-over-year private job gains since 2/13; dark shading means job loss or no growth. NYSDOL map

Another month has brought another poor jobs growth report for upstate New York.

Today’s Labor Department release shows statewide private employment in February was up 1.6 percent over the same month a year earlier, trailing the national rate of 1.9 percent — a slightly smaller margin than in previous months. However, fully three quarters of the statewide job gain came in New York City, where private employment was up 88,700, or 2.6 percent. Another 17,300 jobs (15 percent of the statewide gain) were added on Long Island, boosted to at least some extent by the post-Sandy storm recovery. Continuing a recent trend, Putnam-Rockland-Westchester trailed the rest of downstate, adding 1,900 jobs for a 0.4 percent year-over-year growth rate.

In the 50-county upstate region (north of Dutchess and Orange), the reported year-over-year private job growth equated to a minuscule 0.33 percent, or 8,100 jobs.


Filed under: Economy, Uncategorized

March 20, 2014

Hey, Assembly, what gives?

Tim Hoefer

Over at SeeThroughNY, our team works really hard to post fresh data quickly and accurately — when it’s available, that is.

Today, we updated legislative expenditures for the state Senate, but not for the Assembly, which hasn’t posted its data yet.

A week ago, the Assembly Majority assured us the data would be online in the “very near future.” The Senate made its data available back in late February. (more…)

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