Empire Center for
for Policy Research
Fiscal Watch Memos
Payroll Watch Archive
December 10, 2013
The Pataki-McCall tax commission report unveiled on Long Island today is a decidedly mixed bag. The commission’s recommended business and estate tax changes would represent solid steps to make New York more economically competitive. However, those changes are coupled with “property tax relief” proposals that would offer virtually no economic bang for the buck.
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 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.
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 .
October 29, 2013
A huge majority of New York City residents believe it’s likely the non-Indian gambling casinos authorized by Proposal One on next week’s ballot will bring in “significant new revenue for New York state and local governments”—including a full one-third who think it’s “very likely” that casinos will be a big money maker, according to a New York Times-Siena poll released today.
Apparently, they’ve accepted at face value the spin embedded in the ballot proposition language, which says the casino expansion will achieve the purpose of “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.”
But if that’s really what New Yorkers expect, they’re in for a rude awakening. Yes, a few more casinos will create some jobs and generate some added revenues. But in a statewide context, the projected fiscal and economic impacts of new casinos won’t be “significant” by any stretch of the imagination. The jobs will be relatively few, the new school aid will be minimal and the impact on property taxes in most of the state will be almost imperceptible.
Moreover, experience in other states indicates that, once new gambling facilities come on line, the revenues they generate won’t grow much.
Let’s consider the claims one at a time …
October 22, 2013
Older Posts »
Governor Cuomo today signed a bill imposing a 2 percent cap on increases in property tax assessments the “base agricultural assessment value” for farms. **UPDATED: See postscripts**
A press release from the governor’s office says the base value of agricultural land has doubled in the past seven years, and that tightening the assessment cap to 2 percent from the previous 10 percent “will help maintain agricultural lands in both high pressure development areas as well as rural areas, and save farmers thousands of dollars in property taxes every year.”
Business groups including NFIB and Unshackle Upstate are applauding the action, as is the Farm Bureau.
But with all due respect to farmers, the tighter farm property assessment cap is a really bad idea.