Democrats, now in full control of state government, revealed their top priority this week: rank politics — consequences be damned.
That’s clear from two proposals in the Legislature’s one-house budget bills: one to extend “prevailing wage” laws to private construction projects that get public incentives; the other to create a “pied-à-terre” tax in the city. Both spell trouble.
Prevailing-wage laws (which force builders to pay union rates on public projects) fuel building costs — by as much as 23 percent in the city, the Independent Budget Office found. Applying the laws to private construction in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable-housing plan, the IBO notes, would add $4.2 billion to its price tag.
Imposing higher costs also defeats the purpose of incentives and thwarts development. When city pols demanded Related Cos. pay a “living wage” at a Bronx mall planned for the Kingsbridge Armory, the firm walked. A decade later, the building is still vacant.
Such results are fine with the unions that are the driving force behind these laws; blocking non-union jobs is the whole point.
And Democrats in the Legislature plainly see pleasing unions as Job No. 1.
Naked politics is also behind the sudden enthusiasm for a pied-à-terre tax. After all, it’s aimed at people who don’t live in the city, but only visit — and so don’t vote here. What New Yorker would object to a tax on wealthy out-of-towners?
Well, first off: Just as with the “congestion” tolls proposed for Manhattan, this is the state grabbing revenue that should belong to the city, like other property taxes.
The governor and state Senate would dedicate the revenue for the MTA — but you can bet they’ll count it as their contribution to the agency. (And the Assembly just wants the tax to fund its overall huge boost in statewide spending.) It also means trouble for future MTA budgets, the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon warns, since real estate tax revenues are highly volatile.
Plus, as McMahon also notes, the tax would drag down all luxury unit values, meaning lower assessments and thus less tax revenue for the city. The nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission points to the same flaw, which also likely means the tax won’t bring in as much as projected.
Lawmakers don’t seem worried by any of this: It gives them more to spend now — and to them, what else matters?
© 2019 New York Post
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