woensdag, april 16, 2003

Don't Look Now, But Here Comes Doomsday
"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly, until he know that every day is Doomsday.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Talk about cheap hysterics. Like a madman with a gun threatening to kill hostages one by one if his demands aren't met, NYC Mayor Buffoonberg yesterday desperately tried to call Albany's budgetary bluff by unveiling a "doomsday" fiscal plan that he says he'll have to enact if the state doesn't help bail out the city. Saying he's already raised property taxes, reduced the city's workforce and made $600 million in cuts, the mayor repeatedly called on state legislators and municipal union leaders to now do their part - or he'll have to implement a budget that would be a "horrendous thing for the city."

Hey, we've already seen the ban on smoking, the end of subway tokens, and the advent of the eleven digit phone call this year alone. How much more horrendous can things get in the city?

"Call Albany," Buffoonberg suggested. "We need help. Call the unions. I'm not ashamed to ask for help." I wonder if this is the kind of imagination he used when he built Bloomberg LP as its chief executive. Gimme hand outs. Tax breaks. I need help! Not really. Even his own budget notes that large businesses are increasingly eschewing incorporation and setting themselves up as limited liability partnerships, such as Bloomberg LP. Partnerships pay a flat rate of four percent of taxable income; corporations pay almost nine percent. The Budget For A Livable City Coalitionargues that equalizing the two rates will generate $881 million. The moral of the story is, if the city were a giant corporation that could escape taxes through loopholes, we'd be much better off but since we're not, the best Buffoonberg can offer is "we need help."

Instead, Buffoonberg berated city union chiefs, saying, "Everybody always phrases it 'I want mine' and 'I don't care about the others.' And the fact of the matter is, we are all in this together."

Are we really "all in this together"? Forbes magazine reported Thursday that Buffoonberg is worth a staggering $4.8 billion - up from $4.4 billion a year earlier. That boosted him to 63rd from 72nd on the list of the world's wealthiest. He owns a private jet and five homes. As far as I can tell, no one on my block owns their own jet. Since we are "all in this together" why doesn't he invite us to fly down and play a few rounds of golf on the links near his multimillion dollar home in Bermuda?

A quick look at his property tax plan shows that while we are all in this together, only some of us are going to pay for it.

In an earlier private briefing for City Council members, Bloomberg lost his temper when Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) asked why he wouldn't let corporate sponsors fund firehouses.

"He said, 'Vote against the budget, I don't give a shit" recalled Barron.

We're all in this together so maybe none of should give a shit either. How far does the "we" extend? While Bloomberg's commuter tax, rejected out of hand by Albany as too absurd for consideration, now accounts for $1.4 billion of the $2.7 billion that the mayor is seeking from the state. Even though the city sends Albany at least $3.5 billion more in revenue each year than we receive in state aid, this year we will get even less such aid - at least hundreds of millions of dollars less.

Fortunately, Bonnie Brower offers an alternative to suicide by budget:

"Almost two-thirds of the city's annual revenues are raised from city taxes, fees and fines, and we will have to reform these to find additional ongoing revenues to grow, not cut, our way out of our fiscal crisis. And this is exactly the recipe for survival being pressed by the Budget for a Livable NYC Coalition, which was convened and is being staffed by City Project. It is proposing a progressive revenue package which, if enacted, would generate $3.5 billion in additional recurring revenues for the city, avoid the need for further painful and destructive service cuts, and spread the pain and burdens of the fiscal crisis more evenly and fairly.

The coalition's revenue recommendations "follow the money" to wealthy city residents and profitable businesses, which have so far been insulated from contributing to the city's recovery.

They propose to capture a small portion of the federal income tax windfall, by enacting a one percent income tax increase for residents with incomes above $250,000, which would raise $595 million in new revenue. Our recommended commuter tax is a simple one percent tax, which would, by itself, generate $950 million, almost as much as the mayor's complicated personal income tax reform proposal, but in ongoing revenues."

The coalition offers three major principles for a budget for a livable New York City:

· Further cuts to essential public services impair the city's long-term economic recovery and place our most vulnerable residents in unacceptable jeopardy.

· The City's need for additional revenues is best met through modest tax increases (many of which merely restore former tax levels) targeted to the wealthiest individuals and businesses, which would broaden the tax base, increase long-term, recurring revenues, and make our tax structure fairer and more progressive.

· Significant cost savings in the budget can be achieved in many city agencies through smart spending strategies that improve services, and the collection of outstanding taxes and fines.

You know, it sounds so much more sensible but then again, it's nowhere near as entertaining as listening to our miniature mayor threaten to gut the city if he doesn't get his way. Maybe he should pass out some duct tape and plastic sheeting, just in case his bluff doesn't work.

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