Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Taxing Credulity

How does it happen that a $1.2 billion tax gets extended when it was set to sunset this June, and does so without any public debate? That's the question that former Finance Commissioner Joe Lhota asks this morning in the NY Post: "CAN you imagine a tax increase in New York City without a public debate? Not just any tax increase - but one that'll generate almost $1.2 billion annually? And it's a regressive tax paid by everyone - regardless of wealth or social status."

Yet that's exactly what happened when the Albany leadership slipped the sales tax extension through with absolutely no public discussion. Now we might have all been distracted by the hoo ha over the congestion tax. You know, the one that was going to give NYC $354 million in federal dollars. But an annual tax windfall that's more than double any of the projected revenues from the congestion tax scheme isn't even on the public radar.

Shame on the press, and on our elected officials-and the greatest shame on the hypocritical mayor who slammed Shelly Silver for not allowing public discussion and a vote on the Bloomberg congestion tax. And it was Mayor Mike who engineered this secret tax hike deal, when the sales tax that was enacted to retire Municipal Assistance Corporation bonds floated during the city's fiscal crisis in the 1970s was slated to sunset: "Well, the MAC debt ended; the 1 percent sales tax was to sunset on July 1, 2008. Mayor Bloomberg, however, asked Albany to halt the sunset and reimpose the sales tax so that it could be used for general city operating expenses."

How about a Knucklehead Award for the mayor? Here's the NY Post's 's editorial take on the tax heist: "Bloomberg, while bemoaning the loss of the congestion-pricing tax but not mentioning the sales-tax double-cross at all, called the budget agreement "good news for the city." Some good news. It's not just the $1.2 billion, by the way - though that's a lot of money. Equally important is the erosion of trust embodied in the stealth tax hike."

So what we have in all of this is a mayor who pretends to democratic transparency while he buys votes for his congestion tax just like he's at a public auction; while at the same time quietly socking tax payers without the benefit of any public notice. And just think, there are folks who are concerned about the $20 million that the council speaker doles out to local groups. Talk about misplaced priorities.