by Ben Wilcox
This week’s look at Things Politicians Say spans the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean. Governor Cuomo partially plugs a state budget gap, County Exec’s speak as one to criticize the governor’s Tappan Zee Bridge plan, and why the people of Kosovo love Congressman Eliot Engel almost as much as Germans love David Hasselhoff.
- County Exec’s Talkin’ Tappan Zee: County Executives Scott Vanderhoef (Rockland) and Rob Astorino (Westchester) say there isn’t enough public input on Governor Cuomo’s plan to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. While the TZB project is on the fast track and is seen by Governor Cuomo and the Federal government as a priority, both exec’s feel that the ten years spent studying a new bridge, affirming the need for mass transit, cannot fall by the wayside and be ignored. ‘€œMass transit in some form has to be part of it from the very beginning,’€ Astorino said. ‘€œThis can’t just be a jobs program that doesn’t fix the problem.’€ Source: Capital Tonight
- The millionaire tax is dead. Long live the super-millionaires tax: New York’s current ‘€œmillionaires tax,’€ which starts with people earning $200,000 a year, will be replaced by a new plan that makes $2 million/year earners pay more. The 4.4 million taxpayers who make between $40,000 and $300,000 a year will take home a little bit more of what they earned, as their tax rate will be a little bit lower. The new plan will bring in an additional $1.9 billion in revenue for the cash-starved NYS treasury. The $2 million a year crowd is still getting a tax break compared to what they are currently paying. The well-heeled, who used to pay 8.97 percent will only have to pay 8.82 under the revised plan.
- This week the New York State legislature voted to substantially reduce the MTA payroll tax for businesses whose payroll is less than $1.25 million. On Friday, NYS Senator David Carlucci (D – Rockland/Orange) held a press event in Pearl River with Nyack resident and small business owner Adam Lipson, President & CEO of Network & Security Technologies, to highlight the benefits to 60% of small businesses in Rockland and 11 other counties that will qualify for this reduction. ‘€œThousands of small businesses will be able to have some relief from this job-killing MTA payroll tax,’€ said Carlucci. ‘€œThis legislation makes it more affordable for me to operate my business here in Rockland County,’€ said Lipson.
- The fight to curb car insurance fraud: Carlucci will co-sponsor legislation to require real addresses that aren’t PO Boxes for drivers’ licenses and car registrations. ‘€œNew Yorkers can no longer afford to be taken for granted by those that deliberately scam the auto insurance system, forcing the taxpayers of New York to subsidize the loss in revenue,’€ Carlucci said. The bill proposes three changes: requiring a street address on licenses and car registrations where a PO Box is used; giving law enforcement access to verify this information; letting state insurance personnel cross reference driver’s insurance information with physical addresses. Source: Senator David Carlucci
- Whose fault is this budget mess, anyway? A new audit of Rockland County finances says that poor budgeting practices have left Rockland with more then a $50 million deficit and millions more in debt. by NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli reports that Rockland’s increased deficit is due to ‘€œoverly optimistic revenue projections, failing to repay advances of general fund monies to other county funds, and the loss of a major property tax case.’€ Auditors looked at county budgets from 2006 to 2009 found dramatic overestimates in revenues, which led to the county borrowing money from funds that were not repaid. DiNapoli has called on county officials to develop a comprehensive plan to address the deficits, create budgets that realistically take into account revenues and spending, and ensure that money borrowed from the general fund is repaid in a timely fashion.
“To prevent further decline of the County’s finances, the County Legislature adopted a resolution in March 2011, requesting the State Legislature to establish a public benefit corporation (PBC) with the intent of selling the County’s nursing home and medical facility, presently operated under the home and infirmary fund, to the PBC and using future debt proceeds2 to offset the general fund’s unappropriated fund balance deficit. However, such a plan requires approval from the State Legislature, which the County has not secured as of August 2011. County officials prematurely budgeted an estimated $17.8 million in one-time revenue from this spin-off, creating an imbalance in the 2011 budget, and had to issue a deficiency note in that amount to balance the budget. The taxpayers are liable for this note in the 2012 fiscal year.” — NYS Comptroller, Division of Local Government and School Accountability, Dec 2011
- There’s a street in Kosovo named after US Congressmen Eliot Engel (NY-17). Kosovonians are big fans of Engel , a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Europe Subcommittee, because of his steadfast support for the newly minted (2008) Eastern European country. This week Engel commended the an European Union decision to hold up Serbian entry to the EEU due to its obstructionist policies towards Kosovo. ‘€œWhile I don’t oppose Serbia’s eventual membership in the EU’€¦ Serbia simply should not be allowed into the EU until Kosova is resolved, and it must not be permitted to block Kosova’s future EU candidacy.’€ A giant poster with Engel’s image is featured on the side of a building in Pec, Kosovo, marking the date of the ceremony when a street in that city was renamed in his honor. Sources: Congressman Eliot Engel; Driving Down Congressman Engel Boulevard, in Kosovo, NYT 5/2/2008
Photo Credits: New York Times, Senator David Carlucci