In today's NY Times, the paper details the mayor's new budget and the NY Post outlines some responses from city council members, many of whom want to see is the city can reduce the tax burden and send some money back to the tax payers. As David Yassky pointed out, the surplus is over $6 billion because of debt service and, "We should be returning some of that to the tax payers." Finance chair David Weprin agreed.
The mayor, however, continues to argue that this is not a fiscally prudent course, and inexplicably Comptroller Thompson agrees. He told the Times, "In times of prosperity, we must take steps so we don't have to return to New Yorkers to ask them to dip into their pockets when times are bad." So, let's get this straight. After taking whopping tax increases from the city's residents and businesses we shouldn't look to return any of their money, because? Well, we might have to raise taxes again if times are tough.
Is this as nonsensical as it sounds? You bet it is. The people's money should be returned and a concentrated effort should be launched to reduce the size of city government. Now that's a "greening" of New York all of us should agree on. If the taxes are lowered and economic productivity is increased we will continue to see higher tax revenues along with lower tax rates.
This is the win-win situation that Bill Thompson, as the city's fiscal watchdog, should understand. The fact that he doesn't, doesn't bode well for New York should he be able to succeed the mayor in 2009.