Friday, February 19, 2010

Overcoming Economic Stupidity

According to the Politicker, Council Speaker Chris Quinn used her "State of the City" address to really hone in on the economy: "Christine Quinn delivered her State of the City speech in City Hall today, and was entirely about boosting the economy and creating jobs.How many? She didn't name a specific target goal (probably smart, politically speaking)."

How is she planning to do this-particularly because the council's mandate is really circumscribed by the powers of the mayor? It's a bit unclear, but we did like her emphasis on regulatory reform: "reduce 'excessive and burdensome regulation.' On this point, Quinn said the city has to "change the way we think about the inspection process" and stop "looking for an excuse to write them a ticket."

That's good as far as it goes, but we've seen that the mayor is projecting huge revenue increases from enhanced enforcement-and has added on the folks to do the enforcement and collection. So is Quinn going to challenge the mayor here, and make a clear delineation between the two? That would be salutary for all of the small businesses that are being targeted for battery; but it would mean a rather stark departure from how she and Bloomberg have so adroitly worked in tandem over the past four years-so we remain somewhat skeptical that real change will be effected.

And then there are taxes: "Quinn said she wanted to create a more supportive tax structure, and revamp the process by which applicants sign up and prepare for GED tests." Now the juxtaposition of taxes with GEDs is likely to be the work of Azi rather than Quinn, but we're intrigued by the speaker's view of what a, "supportive tax structure," would look like.

According to Daily Politics, Quinn sees taxes as follows: "Her four-point plan includes: Cultivating an "economy of innovation", bolstering small businesses, creating a "tax environment" that enables rapid expansion and job creation and ensuring New Yorkers have the skills employers are seeking."

Does this mean that Quinn will be challenging the high tax, big government policies of the mayor-and calling for streamlining of the municipal work force as a concomitant of a huge tax cut for city businesses? In our view, the circumlocution, "tax environment," can be viewed as a clever speech writing way to equivocate while only appearing to be devising a pro-business tax policy. Does Quinn have the ability and insight to tack in a more pro-growth direction that is in tension with the mayor's clearly understood proclivities?

Perhaps she does. As Crain's reports: "On taxes, Ms. Quinn said the increases over the past two years are temporary, and that they will be scaled back once the downturn ends. She said she'll work to win a corporate tax exemption for 19,000 mom-and-pop retailers, including newsstands, hardware stores, flower shops and delis, saving them $3,400 each per year."

But, while Quinn reprises the Carville line that, "It's the economy, stupid," she would be naive to think that the folks-and particularly the businesses themselves-aren't aware of just how awful a place NYC is to be doing business of any kind. If she charts a contrapuntal course to that of the mayor-in the direction of addressing this lamentable state of affairs, we will be glad to re-evaluate some of our less than kind observations about her heretofore obsequiousness to Mike Bloomberg. NYC sure could use this kind of creative tension in its political class.