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February 19, 2014

Court chalks up one for taxpayers

E.J. McMahon

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.


November 27, 2013

Cuomo flipping the “circuit breaker”

E.J. McMahon

Source: Wikipedia

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 20, 2013

Open Book enhanced

Tim Hoefer

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 GOP weighs in on taxes

E.J. McMahon

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

First take on tax reform commission report

E.J. McMahon

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

Cuomo finally issues mid-year financial update

E.J. McMahon

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 .


July 25, 2013

Cuomo’s arbitration carve-out

E.J. McMahon

Thanks to a last-minute bill language tweak sought by police and firefighter unions, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s watered-down “reform” of New York’s compulsory arbitration law will not apply to a number of unsettled contracts that hadn’t even reached the arbitration stage before the law was extended just before the Legislature adjourned last month. Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) records now indicate that up to two dozen contract disputes may have been carved out of the new law (Ch. 67 of 2013), with the full impact ultimately depending on how many of these employers are considered fiscally distressed enough to otherwise qualify.

Cuomo has claimed that the arbitration change ”will improve the process and help municipalities continue to protect the public’s safety while balancing the interests of their taxpayers.” However, because the governor caved to union demands in the final week of the session, the full measure of those purported (and debatable) benefits won’t immediately flow to taxpayers in some of the state’s most distressed localities — including Suffolk County and the cities of Gloversville and Syracuse.


June 19, 2013

Still more backpedaling on arbitration

E.J. McMahon

The ink was barely dry on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s local government “restructuring” bill yesterday when the governor made two more concessions to unions on the issue of binding arbitration.

As explained here yesterday, the agreed-upon legislation is weaker and likely to be much less effective than Cuomo’s original proposal for capping police and firefighter pay and benefit increases under an arbitration system that has played a major role in pushing municipal compensation costs to unaffordable and unsustainable levels.

Governor’s Program Bill #21, as posted on his website late yesterday morning, would have expired in 2015 — a political off-year.  Legislative sources said the unions were pushing for a later expiration date. The original bill also contained one important loophole for unions in its final paragraph; while the effective date is retroactive to April 1, the new language would not apply to any contract dispute referred to the Public Employment Relations Board for arbitration before June 14 — i.e., last Friday, the last business day before the bill was filed.

Later in the day, however, the governor’s office substituted Program Bill #21R, containing two changes to the original: pushing the expiration date out one more year, to 2016 (which is both a legislative and presidential election year), and adding language that says the law also will not apply to disputes that resulted in a “declaration of impasse” (the step before an arbitration petition) before June 14.

April 8, 2013

Cuomo’s workers’ comp raid

E.J. McMahon

Noting that New Yorkers had been treated last week to “almost daily political perp walks” involving “a parade of office-holders,” an editorial in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal pointed out: The bigger scandal in the Empire State continues to be what the politicians do that’s legal.”


March 11, 2013

An Assembly reprieve for local reports?

E.J. McMahon

Based on their just-introduced one-house budget, Assembly Democrats don’t support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to eliminate all required reports by local governments and school districts to state agencies. From a transparency and accountability standpoint, that’s good news for taxpayers and the general public, as explained here.

Much less positively, in the same Article 7 budget bill, Assembly Democrats go along with the governor’s proposal to raid the State Insurance Fund (SIF) for $1.75 billion, which I criticize in this New York Post op-ed today.


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