Got flowers? Thank surge pricing by Kenneth Girardin |  | NY Torch

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One of the hallmarks of ride-sharing services like Uber is their practice of temporarily boosting prices to encourage more drivers to accept fares. It’s supply and demand at its simplest, and while critics have derided this price mechanism, anyone giving flowers to their valentine today is living proof that “surge pricing” benefits both providers and consumers. [Read_more]

Pension fund inches up by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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New York State's largest public pension fund earned 1.91 percent during the quarter ending Dec. 31, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced today.
Meanwhile, the New York State Teachers' Retirement System (NYSTRS) has confirmed its contribution rate will drop for the first time in five years when pension bills for 2015-16 come due in the fall.

Neither announcement says much about the long-term future path of taxpayer-funded pension costs in New York, however. [Read_more]

Questioning Cuomo’s numbers by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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Governor Andrew Cuomo's projection of future "surpluses" rests on the expectation that he "will propose, and negotiate with the Legislature to enact, Budgets that hold State Operating Funds spending growth to 2 percent."

But is the governor really living under his own cap? A budget analysis by the state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office suggests, persuasively, that he isn't. [Read_more]

Cuomo upholds local control of police by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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Better late than never, Governor Andrew Cuomo has exercised a pocket veto of legislation that would have allowed unions representing police and other civil service employees to insist on collective bargaining of disciplinary procedures.

The bill was passed at the end of session in June, but wasn't even sent to Cuomo's desk by the Senate until December. That effectively re-started the clock for gubernatorial consideration, making this a measure the governor could kill by not signing it within 30-day period, which just ended. [Read_more]

State budget keeps oinking along by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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Governor Andrew Cuomo eliminated funding of new "member item" spending when he took office four years ago—but the Ghost of Pork Barrels Past continues to haunt the state's finances.

Each of Cuomo's first four Executive Budget proposals projected the depletion and elimination of what's technically known as the "Community Projects Fund - 007" -- but every year, the enacted budget has restored the money to back up reappropriations of the member item lump sum. [Read_more]

Silver’s golden parachute by Kenneth Girardin |  | NY Torch

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If Sheldon Silver remains a rank-and-file legislator after stepping down as Assembly speaker, he will be losing money on the deal, according to the Empire Center's pension calculator. [Read_more]

There goes the windfall? by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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One of the biggest questions heading into New York’s fiscal 2016 Executive Budget presentation was how Governor Andrew Cuomo would choose to allocate an unprecedented, one-shot $5.4 billion windfall "surplus" originating with fines and penalties collected from financial institutions.

Now we have the answer: under Cuomo's proposal, less than one-third of the money—barely $1.6 billion—would be absolutely, positively committed to core transportation infrastructure purposes.

The rest would go to an assortment of stuff, only some of which would fit into even an extra-broad definition of “infrastructure.” [Read_more]

Cuomo: make tax cap permanent by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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Governor Andrew Cuomo's combined State of the State and budget message today included a promise to make permanent the historic property tax cap enacted at his initiative in 2011. [Read_more]

Open(ish) Erie by Tim Hoefer |  | NY Torch

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It's a simple concept: governments collect tax dollars from citizens, then spends those tax dollars on services for them. Citizens have a right to know how those tax dollars are spent. Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw gets it. [Read_more]

Breaking bad on property taxes by E.J. McMahon |  NY Torch

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He didn't use the phrase himself, but the property tax credit unveiled yesterday by Governor Andrew Cuomo is of the type commonly known as a "circuit breaker." Like an electrical switch designed to automatically prevent a power overload, a circuit breaker tax credit is supposed to kick in when homeowners' property tax burdens overload their ability to pay.

Cuomo's proposal would not represent a property tax cut but a means-tested state personal income break -- available only to some homeowners, and not available to owners of commercial, industrial or multi-family properties, which pay a hefty share of local taxes. [Read_more]

NY fuel tax drops — a little by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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The impact of declining crude oil prices, already visible at the gas pump, has now rippled through to New York State’s petroleum business tax (PBT). Effective Jan. 1, the PBT on motor fuel has dropped by a whopping six-tenths of a penny, to 17.8 cents per gallon from 18.4 cents per gallon, according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. [Read_more]

PLA’s loss is taxpayers’ win by Kenneth Girardin |  | NY Torch

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The Kingston school board struck a blow for local taxpayers last month when it voted against requiring a project labor agreement (PLA) on a school renovation project. While local union leaders slammed the move as “fiscally irresponsible,” the board’s 5-4 vote was a big win for taxpayers and sets an example for other communities facing a similar choice. [Read_more]