Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to raise the city’s cigarette tax to $1.50 from 8 cents per pack is expected to cut taxable consumption in half, as many more smokers quit, cut back, or turn to alternative sources out of state or on the Internet. This would undermine the financing for Governor Pataki’s health care programs, which depend partly on revenue from the state’s cigarette tax.
In a single year, New York State's finances have been knocked out of kilter by a deep stock market slump, a national recession and an unprecedented terrorist attack aimed right at the heart of its tax base. The result, says Gov. Pataki, has been a loss of $7 billion in revenue.
Mayor Bloomberg could realize more than $1.2 billion a year in city budget savings if he can get municipal employee unions to agree to proposed labor givebacks and productivity reforms including a health insurance co-pay, a longer work day for teachers, more scheduling flexibility for cops and firefighters, and less vacation and leave time for newly hired workers. But it all starts with ‘the zero option’—a pay freeze after current contracts expire in fiscal year 2003.
There are a whole lot of ways to close a $4.9 billion gap in a $40 billion budget, as Mayor Bloomberg demonstrated once again this week. He wants to balance the budget without imposing economically devastating tax hikes.
A majority of City Council members has called on the council leadership to back a city income tax surcharge of up to 55 percent on high-income New Yorkers. This $1.23 billion tax increase would have a devastating impact on the city's economy, leading to the loss of another 48,000 jobs, according to the Manhattan Institute’s tax policy analysis model. It would boost the combined state and city income tax rate to a maximum of 12.5 percent—nearly double the next-highest rate in any neighboring state.
As if New York's economy wasn't already stressed enough, there's a renewed push in the City Council for a local "living wage" law that could hinder the city's economic renewal while reducing job opportunities for the very people it is supposed to help.
At a time when New York desperately needs to find ways of delivering public services more efficiently, its transit bus operations could prove to be a significant source of recurring savings for the future.
The key to unlocking these savings is competition—an essential spur to improved performance and efficiency that’s been missing from transit in New York for most of the past 50 years.