I love New York. But how much should it cost to call New York home? Decades of out-of-control budgets, spending increases and relentless borrowing have made New York simply too expensive.
Politicians like to talk about incentives -- incentives for businesses to relocate, incentives to buy local and incentives to make smart decisions. After reviewing the 2009 budget, I have identified the most compelling incentive of all: a major tax break immediately available to all New Yorkers. To be eligible, you need only do one thing: move out of New York state.
Last week I spent 90 minutes doing a couple simple things: registering to vote, changing my driver's license, filling out a domicile certificate and signing a homestead certificate -- in Florida. Combined with spending 184 days a year outside New York, these simple procedures will save me over $5 million in New York taxes annually.
That savings doesn't include that Florida has a 6 percent sales tax, compared to New York's 8 percent or more. Florida has lower utility taxes and lower gasoline taxes. The Florida homestead certificate guarantees my property taxes will not grow more than 3 percent.
By moving to Florida, I can spend that money on worthy causes, like better hospitals and improving education, and on worthy projects like the Clinton Global Initiative. Or maybe I will continue to invest that money in fighting the status quo in Albany. One thing is certain: That money will not continue to fund Albany's bloated bureaucracy, corrupt politicians or regular handouts to the special interests.
How did we get here in the first place? It all starts with spending, spending and more spending.
New York's budget was $72.7 billion in 1999. Ten years later, it has ballooned to $131.8 billion. That growth is astounding, but it continues to get worse. Each year, New York's budget has had 6 percent compounded growth, double the average rate of inflation (2.8 percent). Florida's budget, on the other hand, went down 8 percent this year. HEALTH CARE SPENDING New York spends $2,283 per person on Medicaid. That's the highest per capita spending in the nation and twice the national average. In the last decade, the Medicaid budget has grown by 50 percent ($30 billion in 1999 and $45 billion in 2009). In almost every sector (hospitals, nursing homes, medicine, clinics, and home and community care), spending per recipient regularly exceeds the national average.
Faced with escalating costs and diminishing returns, Albany and their allies, the health care unions (SEIU has over 300,000 politically active members), had only one answer: Increase taxes.
New York spends the most per pupil in America on education, spending 63 percent above the national average. Costs went up about 60 percent in the last decade ($12.7 billion in 1999 and $20.7 billion in 2009). Like health care, education is something worth spending on and worth investing in, but we're spending more and getting less. New York City schools graduated 54 percent of high school students in 2007, Buffalo 47 percent and Rochester 45 percent.
Why? Perhaps it's because the New York state teachers union, with its $114 million budget, is always trying to convince Albany to spend more. Maybe it's because it's mandatory that all teachers pay union dues. Whatever the cause, when faced with potential cuts, the union and their allies have one response: Increase taxes.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING
It's not just the state. It's the range and breadth of New York layers of governments and special taxing districts. In New York, the average state and local tax burden is $5,260 for every man, woman and child. That's by far the highest in the country. Like Albany, when faced with a difficult problem, these municipalities have one answer: Increase taxes.
Upstate New York has been particularly hard hit. Add unreasonable real estate taxes to the uncontrolled state spending, and you have whole communities decimated. The assessment process is unfair, unworkable and unreasonable, and the result is that 15 of the 20 highest taxed counties in America are right here in Upstate New York. While homeowners in other areas build equity, we just pay more taxes.
NO ONE'S HOME
This problem did not begin with the current recession. New York faced a $6 billion shortfall before the economic downturn. However, in the face of economic turmoil Gov. Paterson, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Smith looked to the unions and special interests, who answered with one voice: Raise taxes.
Among other taxes and fees, they raised the marginal tax rate on the most successful (and most mobile) New Yorkers to 8.97 percent, the second highest rate in the nation.
It was irresponsible and it may just prove to be counterproductive, since the top 1 percent of earners account for about 50 percent of state revenue. We're the ones who can -- and will -- leave.
It's not an easy decision, but I'm being forced away from my family and friends, a pain shared by too many parents and grandparents in this state.
I'm leaving. And by domiciling in Florida, I will personally save $13,800 every single day. That's a pretty strong incentive.
Like I said, I love New York, but I'm not going to pay New York more for the waste, corruption and inefficiency that is New York state government.
Tom Golisano is the Chairman of the Board of Paychex, Inc. and the founder of the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation. He created Responsible New York so the voices of ordinary New Yorkers can be heard over the special interests, to hold elected officials accountable and to advocate for government reform.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||May 26 2009|