Going for broke on wages? by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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The $15-an-hour minimum wage proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo has enormous potential implications for labor markets and employer costs in many New York business sectors, especially upstate. [Read_more]

EPA’s double standard at work in NY by Kenneth Girardin |  | NY Torch

If a huge private corporation with billions of dollars in revenues at its disposal was caught discharging a “probable human carcinogen” into a rural upstate New York creek, it would immediately be branded in some circles as environmental public enemy number-one.

But the federal government’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is quite deliberately doing exactly the same thing—on purpose—in the Rensselaer County town of Nassau. [Read_more]

Tweaking NY’s pension math by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

Just in time for Wall Street’s latest bout of bearish volatility, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is taking an important step to fortify New York’s largest pension fund. [Read_more]

How “North NY” would stack up by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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If the New York counties north of the New York City metro region were to split off and become a separate state, how would it rank nationally?

The question is prompted by news accounts of last weekend's Southern Tier rally by a coalition of groups whose members want upstate to secede from the rest of New York. Not all the advocates favor creation of a separate state, however. Some favor absorption into Pennsylvania, while others suggest avoiding the constitutional hurdles of full statehood by changing New York's own constitution to create two "autonomous regions" within the outline of a "token" remaining single state. In addition, their definitions of "upstate" seem to differ. [Read_more]

NY leans on a volatile Wall Street by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

The stock market turmoil of the last week is a reminder of why it's risky, verging on foolhardy, for New York's state government to depend as heavily as it does on high-income households and Wall Street investors.

In the current fiscal year, taxes paid by the highest-earning 1 percent of New York taxpayers—including commuters to jobs in the state—are expected to generate 43 percent of personal income tax receipts, which in turn translates into 27 percent of total state taxes. [Read_more]

How NY stacks up on business taxes by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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New York's tax climate for key business sectors—with the notable exception of manufacturing—ranks at or near the bottom among 50 states, according to study by the Tax Foundation and the KPMG accounting firm. [Read_more]

A flat Q1 for NY Pension Fund by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

On the heels of a sub-par fiscal year, New York State's largest public pension fund has just reported another weak quarter for investment returns.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli today said the Common Retirement Fund (CRF), of which he is sole trustee, had gained just 0.52 percent during the three months ending June 30, the first quarter of the fund's 2015-16 fiscal year. The CRF finances pension benefits for nearly all non-New York City state and local government retirees, other than educational professionals. [Read_more]

Retirement choice popular so far by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

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New York’s two-year-old Voluntary Defined Contribution (VDC) retirement plan—the most significant structural reform in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2012 Tier 6 pension legislation—is shaping up as a popular alternative among the relatively small number of government employees eligible to sign up for it.

The 580 enrollees in the VDC plan between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2015 include at least eight of the 29 state Assembly and state Senate members elected during that period, according to the plan managers at the State University of New York (SUNY). [Read_more]

A glimpse into slush guidelines by Kenneth Girardin |  | NY Torch

New York State’s $1 billion capital project slush fund is dispensing borrowed money across the state outside public scrutiny, but two local governments have inadvertently given New Yorkers a glimpse of its inner workings. [Read_more]

Inside Albany’s secretive slush fund by Kenneth Girardin |  | NY Torch

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The Cuomo administration and the state Legislature have begun dishing out grants from a secretive $1.1 billion capital slush fund—all of which will be borrowed money—with no disclosure of project sponsorship or award criteria. [Read_more]

Warning: lower tax hikes ahead by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

The starting point for computing next year's local property tax cap in most of New York State will be less than 1 percent—and so state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is warning local governments "brace for ... [lower] growth in property tax revenues."

DiNapoli's tone clearly implies that a lower tax cap is a negative. But most property owners will no doubt see it another way. [Read_more]

Another frack at NY shale gas? by Kenneth Girardin |  | NY Torch

Days after New York formalized its ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, a Tioga County business is looking to use a newer method to harvest natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus Shale formations. [Read_more]