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March 11, 2013
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.
March 4, 2013
Senate Republicans today unveiled some new proposed personal income tax (PIT) adjustments that would generate savings for middle-class families.* For a couple with income of $70,000 and two children under 17, the potential annual tax cut from the proposed Family Tax Relief Act would appear to come to roughly $700. The estimated revenue hit of $500 million from these changes would be relatively modest, especially if spread over a few years.
So far, so good. The dependent exemption, after all, hasn’t been touched in 25 years, and those credits were never indexed to inflation.
Unfortunately, the Senate GOP conference also wants to spend a whopping $1.3 billion to revive New York’s School Tax Relief (STAR) property tax rebates — a classic political check-in-the-mailbox waste of money that disappeared, widely unmourned, just three years after its 2006 election-year enactment. STAR rebates would be calculated as a percentage of savings already provided through the main STAR homestead exemption program, and would average $445 per homeowner, and $460 for seniors. The Senate passed a one-house STAR rebate bill last year, too. (Think of it as a $1.3 billion excuse for avoiding Triborough repeal and other school mandate relief.)
In line with New York’s motto — “Excelsior” — the state assumes its tax receipts are headed ever upward.
Late last week, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced they had agreed to a consensus forecast adding $200 million to the combined receipts already budgeted for fiscal years 2012-13 (which ends on March 31) and 2013-14. Cuomo’s Executive Budget already had assumed healthy tax receipts growth of 4.8 percent— so the consensus simply pushes the envelope a little further out there, in an arguably riskier direction.
November 26, 2012
For a second straight year, Governor Andrew Cuomo has fallen behind the schedule for releasing the required quarterly update to the state financial plan. And for a second straight year, the governor can’t come up with a persuasive reason for the delay.
In today’s Post, Fred Dicker quotes an administration source as saying the mid-year update is “all pre-Sandy numbers,” so the superstorm cannot be used as an excuse.
July 3, 2012
It was Mark Twain who supposedly said “no man’s property is safe when Congress is in session” — a concept that a surely extends to the New York State Legislature as well. In that spirit, here’s something to celebrate on the Fourth of July: the Legislature not only left Albany on schedule June 21, it passed fewer bills this year than in any regular session since 1914, according to an analysis by New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).
The 571 bills passed by both houses before the regular session adjourned were less than half the average during the 1960s, the decade in which the Legislature was most hyperactive. Perhaps not by coincidence, the ’60s — heyday of Rocky in Albany and LBJ in DC — also had the most lasting negative impact on the state’s economy and finances in the long term.*
June 15, 2012
It seems like everyone who counts in Albany could get a pay bump before the year’s out.
Pay raises are basically an annual tradition for government employees. As The Chief reports (subscription required), about 75 percent of the members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and 67 percent of Public Employees Federation (PEF) members are getting increases from step increments and longevity bonuses, despite the state’s supposed wage freeze. (The unions say their members are still losing money due to payless furlough days and increases in health insurance premiums.) Teachers often get two raises each year, one negotiated in their contract as a “raise,” and one as a “step” increase.
June 5, 2012
Headed for the governor's desk?
Reversing decades of precedent, all but one of the state’s public pension funds are now refusing to release the names of hundreds of thousands of retired employees who collect billions of dollars a year in taxpayer-guaranteed pensions.
The pension funds are citing a 2011 decision by the Appellate Division in Manhattan, which in turn upheld a lower court’s rejection of the Empire Center’s Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the names of retired New York City police officers for inclusion on the SeeThroughNY database. In a decision we’re fighting, the courts upheld the city Police Pension Fund’s claim that retirees themselves are entitled to the same confidentiality as their designated beneficiaries (usually surviving spouses).
But the Legislature may be riding to the rescue of the public’s right to know.
May 22, 2012
Senate Republicans today issued what they called a “comprehensive plan” to create jobs — although all they’ve really put on the table (in a form readily accessible to the public, at any rate) is a press release summary of initiatives. The release says the Senate will pass the legislation as soon as next week. No bill numbers, bill copy or legislative memos are posted with the release at the Senate website, although t The tax cuts in the plan were passed in March as part of the Senate’s one-house budget resolutions, and some of these cats and dogs are said to be popping up on committee agendas.
UPDATE: Actually, on closer inspection, the release does cite numbers for two of the bills it summarizes. The Senate subsequently provided the missing link in the release — confirming that the omnibus package has been introduced as S.7448.
For years now, the Senate GOP’s approach to economic growth has been to cook up big pot of targeted tax relief, and then fling the whole one-house package onto the agenda for passage so incumbents can campaign on it. Job creation? We’ve got it covered!
The latest Senate plan is basically more of the same — at least $1.1 billion in tax and fee reductions, including elimination of income taxes on manufacturers (which at least affects an entire sector) and an accelerated phase-out of the 18a energy assessment imposed under Governor Paterson in 2009 (which affects everyone). Republicans also are proposing to repeal the annual notification provisions of the costly and onerous “Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2010″; indeed, they already passed the repeal bill.
A few other items on the list can most kindly be described as unobjectionable. At least one, the proposed expansion of the film production credit, would simply inflate an already egregious tax give-away to an over-indulged industry.
January 12, 2012
Let’s make a deal - you give me $650 today, and five years from now I’ll give you $10,000 back. That incredible return on investment is what some forward-thinking federal agencies are offering taxpayers, according to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Commerce and NARA are working together to create:
[A] multi-agency FOIA portal that automates FOIA processing and reporting, sores FOIA requests and responses in a repository and keeps records electronically.
December 27, 2011
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The Governor’s Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission issued an overdue presentation to the Governor on December 15, 2011. Tucked away on page 42, is one proposal the Governor needs to embrace with open arms: taking over the administration and payment of the State Supplement to the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which will save about $90 million annually.
In September 2011, over 685,000 New Yorkers who are either aged or disabled received combined federal and state payments of just over $380 million monthly, including a state supplement of $53.3 million (pages 19 and 20).