Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tax Talk

Perhaps it is the fact that, as Councilman Lew Fidler told the Post, the mayor is running for president and doesn't want to do while raising taxes. But whatever the reason, the mayor's decision to rule out a tax increase in the midst of a budget deficit is good news given the fact that he's shown little sensitivity to the bloated nature of municipal government over the past six years.

And guess what? Mayor Mike's even talking about trimming government spending: "In October, as revenue projections were lowered, Bloomberg ordered agency heads to come up with $1.5 billion in savings over two years. He also instituted a temporary hiring freeze, which has since been lifted." As the NY Times reports: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, squeezed by rising costs and sharply falling revenues, plans to cut spending rather than raise taxes to balance the city budget next year, according to an aide familiar with his thinking."

Of course, more should be done but that would entail an inclination and will that doesn't exist in the current administration. Here's the way the NY Sun depicts the mayor's attitude: "The mayor always said that we have to keep a constant eye on whether we can afford these tax cuts and, based on where were are right now, they're still alive and moving forward," a source who said he is familiar with the mayor's thinking and the speech's content said. "The mayor feels that he can propose this in part because when the storm clouds were still distant on the horizon he started making hard calls about cutting government spending."

All well and good, but what's missing is the reinventing government attitude that looks to make service delivery more entreprenuerial and efficient. Interestingly, the man who made billions in business doesn't see government through anything that resembles the same private sector lens. Wondering whether we can "afford" a tax cut typifies the pro-government mindset.

Bloomberg's problem here is that, having eschewed a reform government approach in opting for whopping tax increases in 2002, he has foregone six years of opportunity. He's left with a "beg the unions" strategy that at this late stage of his mayoralty will be difficult to effectively implement: "Bloomberg officials have remained tight-lipped about what or how much would be cut, but the aide said that Mr. Bloomberg would try to save money within the government and would look to labor unions for help."

It's late in the day for a renewed examination of the size of government, and how the bloat effects the middle class tax payers and the businesses that support the government services. As late as it is, however, it's better late than never as we head into the next election cycle.