Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Down by the Levy

It begins to look more and more as if the budget process is being orchestrated by Assembly Speaker Silver-and his call for a so-called millionaire's tax: "Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver yesterday issued his strongest call for a massive tax hike on the wealthy to help close the state's $13 billion budget gap. "Is it fair to ask the people who make more to pay a little bit more in this time of crisis?" Silver wondered rhetorically. "We've done it before. There hasn't been a catastrophe. It is certainly a viable option that has to be considered as we go forward for the next budget."

Of course, we could also ask, is it fair for New Yorkers-of what ever stripe-to be paying more taxes at the same time that they labor under the highest tax umbrella in the nation? And is is fair to be making these suggestions soon after speaking to public sector workers who have not been asked to sacrifice at all? As the Post tells us: "Silver made his remarks after two appearances before public-employee unions in which he called for "shared sacrifice" from the rich to prevent deep cuts to education and other state services."

And what about those "deep cuts" in education? Will they be devastating for the children; or more so for the educational bureaucracy that has failed to deliver the quality services that all of the already ample funding has promised? And where is the fiscally responsible governor in all of this?

This is the question raised by the NY Post this morning: "Gov. Paterson and the Legislature were on track to raid every piggybank in New York last night, seeking to scare up $1.6 billion to balance Albany's books for the current year - but with scant regard for the $14 billion in red ink that must be sponged up for the fiscal year that starts April 1." Not a good sign of fiscal sobriety.

And the Post goes on to point out: "The governor's original 2009-2010 budget plan actually called for an overall, inflation-adjusted spending increase - to be paid for with $4.6 billion in taxes and fees, the largest tax hike in state history. This left the field clear for legislative leaders and their affiliated interest groups to prepare the way for a massive income-tax hike, on top of the imposts already budgeted by the governor."

Meanwhile, other states are taking a more sensible, small business friendly approach: "But there's still time to cut judiciously and save core government services without raising taxes and killing jobs. Other states are doing it: The Wall Street Journal noted Monday that several governors are pursuing tax cuts and other incentives to lure investment, tax revenue and jobs to their states. Minnesota is looking to freeze government wages and deeply cut spending. That will help it cut business taxes in half - and exempt small businesses from capital-gains taxes.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter wants to double business tax credits - while also chopping spending."

In New York? Here raising taxes and keeping government bloated is business as usual. The governor, hearing Cuomo's footsteps, should be asking; For whom does this bell toll? For as John Donne has written: "Perchance, he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him."