There is nothing like the IRS Form 1040 and NYS Form 201 to get you in the mood for tax reform.
We need a simpler system. Complexity is expensive by itself—we spend money simply keeping records and paying professionals to figure out what we can and can’t claim. The Taxpayer Advocate’s Service (TAS) of the National Taxpayer Advocate (appointed and funded by Congress) estimated in 2010 that taxpayers spend 6.1 billion hours filling out taxes each year (down from an estimated 7.6 billion hours in 2008, probably courtesy of tax software). 60% of Americans pay someone else to complete their tax forms. In 2008, TAS put the total cost of compliance at $163 billion, about 11% of total tax receipts. Read more »
Evidence-based decision making is best when data are properly used, when good judgment hasn’t been trumped by bad numbers, or good numbers twisted to support an inappropriate conclusion. Just collecting data, tying it to outcomes and using it to make comparisons isn’t enough. Numbers must be accurate and they need context. Data are essential to great leaders, but numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Let’s say I wanted to invest in a technology company. Being a devoted iPhone user, I am predisposed to liking Apple products. With a few clicks of my mouse I find Apple has earnings per share (EPS) of $13.87. Is this good? I quickly search for Google and learn its EPS is at $8.75. Should I be convinced that Apple’s numbers make it a better investment?
As a good consumer I should ask: Are the metrics accurate? EPS is a well-known measure of corporate profitability and my source was reputable. Are the metrics comparable? In this case, yes, but only after I checked that the EPS numbers covered the same time period. What do the metrics tell me? They give me insight into Apple’s and Google’s profitability. Read more »
State lawmakers pulled a neat trick when it came to redrawing the boundary lines of their districts: Though 138 of them (out of 212) signed pledges while running for re-election in 2010 to support redistricting reform, they instead used the usual process under their own control, while promising to do different in 2022. Ten years from now.
It’s not all that surprising, given the political realities: Senate Republicans depend upon redistricting and other elements of the political status quo to maintain control of the chamber despite having less than a quarter of all registered voters enrolled in their party. Assembly Democrats have been all too happy to respect their “gentlemen’s agreement” with the Senate Republicans to each draw the lines in their respective houses. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also promised to support independent redistricting, had other priorities. And voters, well, we don’t care enough about this once-a-decade process of truing up legislative boundary lines to population changes measured by the decennial census to scare the lawmakers into giving up control of it. Read more »
A previous CGR Policy Wonk blog, ‘Transforming Urban Education: From Despair to Hope?’ discussed Raleigh, North Carolina’s countywide solution to addressing urban education issues. The Raleigh experience offers a model for breaking down barriers of poverty and uneven resources and opportunities that help create widely-divergent outcomes across city, suburban and rural boundaries in our community.
The Raleigh model, while promising with its documented levels of success, would also be practically and politically difficult to implement locally—not least because of the multitude of school districts in most counties across New York (18 in Monroe County). Merging two school districts in Raleigh/Wake County, while not easily accomplished, seems like a walk in the park compared with changing the current educational landscape in Monroe County. As several responses to the original article suggested, we need the type of strong cross-sector leadership around this issue that surfaced in Raleigh. Is that realistic locally, given our entrenched multi-school-district profile? Read more »
At long last, we’ve been treated to a streak of positive news on the U.S. economy. Job growth continues, with 227,000 added in February and 900,000 over the past five months; the application rate for jobless benefits now stands at a four-year low; and the unemployment rate has fallen from 9.0 to 8.3 in a year. And while the sharp decline in the unemployment rate appears to have slowed in the past three months, there’s even a silver lining there as more people resumed their search for work in the face of a better employment outlook (about 500,000 in February). It’s tough to argue that’s anything but good news.
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On assignment out here in Arizona, I’m led to compare it to my adopted state of New York. First, there’s the weather: no snow, warm temps, bicycle-friendly year-round. Out here, of course, that’s a normal winter.
The big city dominates state politics. Here the city is Phoenix. With two-thirds of the state’s population, the Phoenix metro area carries a big stick. Arizonans living elsewhere complain that they have but a small, quiet voice in state political circles and that the interests of Maricopa County (Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, etc.) rule. We’ve got our big city, of course: New York City alone accounts for just over 40 percent of the state’s population. Add in Long Island and Westchester and Rockland counties, and metro New York’s share rises to 61 percent. Read more »
Since No Child Left Behind took effect in 2001, tens of thousands of our country’s schools have been tagged “persistently low performing” and “in need of improvement.” Here in NYS, those names are poised to change to the less punitive “priority” and “focus” schools, if the waiver applied for last month is approved by the US Department of Education. Do the names matter?
The cynical point of view is that some of the fundamental critiques of NCLB—that it points a finger instead of lending a hand, and that it sets an impossible target of 100% student proficiency by 2014—were not taken seriously until they began adversely affecting high-performing schools in more affluent districts. But there is a bit more going on behind this waiver story—and it raises difficult questions about the role of the feds in education. Read more »
I remember the looks on the faces of my undergrad sociology classmates when they learned I was also majoring in business. A traitor was in the ranks! How could I possibly be one of the good guys while learning about global markets? Conversely, in my business courses I was suspect for having an affinity for the “softer” side of academia—subjects that surely weren’t as important or rigorous as microeconomics.
This stereotyping divided our student body – groups were aware of each other, but rarely interacted and certainly didn’t recognize their commonalities in perspective or purpose. During my professional career I have witnessed similar antics between our sectors – nonprofit, business, and public. Sure, we know the others exist, but we aren’t really playing on the same team. Read more »
On January 1, 2012, the Town of Seneca Falls became a unified municipality for the first time since 1831. Communities across New York State have their eye on Seneca Falls to see what lessons can be learned from the dissolution of the historic village. As the largest village to dissolve in New York State, the process and outcomes will serve as a great test case for many years to come. However, some may be prone to draw conclusions from the outcomes that aren’t warranted.
Dissolution studies in most villages are initiated by citizens or elected officials because they believe it will save them money. The most common argument is that two layers of government are more expensive than one, and eliminating a duplicate layer must produce savings that will cause a tax bill to go down. When CGR models the fiscal impact of dissolutions cost savings are typically modest, usually in the 3-10% range. This was true in Seneca Falls as projected cost savings were a little over 7% of the combined budgets. Cost savings was not what pushed the lever in favor of dissolution. Read more »
“And which retirement plan do you want?” Retirement?!! As a newly appointed Assistant Professor of Economics at Potsdam College of SUNY, I was 28 and starting my first real professional job. I was being asked to make a decision that would have little impact on my life for 37 years.
I was offered two options: The first was the NYS Employee Retirement System (ERS). If I stayed in state service and retired at age 65, I would be eligible for annual benefits equal to 70.5% of my final average salary (defined as the highest salary earned in three consecutive years). My contribution would have been 3% of salary for the first ten years. The remainder of the cost would be paid by the state. This is what is called a “defined benefit” retirement plan. Regardless of what happens to the invested money, NYS promises to pay out a specified benefit for as long as I live. Read more »