An Albany Q&A

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

The business of state government is essentially done for the year, although who knows what special sessions may be called after the November election (pay raise anyone?)

Now, Assembly and Senate members are back in their home districts. Maybe they’ve even taken a vacation break – something veteran lawmakers probably find refreshing (late budgets had become such a regular occurrence that lawmakers often found themselves bathing under florescent lights in the capitol instead of summer sunshine on a sandy beach).

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The Best Chance for Election Reform

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Any real reform of elections should include how maps get drawn – legislative district maps, that is.

You may have heard about how the U.S. Supreme Court just came down with a ruling that impacts that process of redrawing legislative maps, known as redistricting.

Does it matter to New York? It does, although it’s more of a wake-up call than anything else.

First, let’s recall that redistricting is the process of changing political boundaries – the districts within a state for those representing people in Congress and in the 50 state houses.

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Campaign Rhetoric vs. Albany Reality

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Candidates looking to replace George Pataki as governor are ramping up talk about reforming state government, changing the status quo.

They say it’s necessary to bring down local tax bills and improve upstate’s dismal job creation record.

Now . . . let’s juxtapose this rhetoric with a big dose of Albany reality – the one that says, “stick your neck out a bit and you’ll get slapped back.”

This realistic message comes courtesy of the state’s public employees unions.

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Tax Talk . . . Both Property and Sales

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

The Buffalo News had a column on Thursday that suggests the candidates for governor need to have a more expansive discussion about local property taxes and tax cuts.

My colleague at the Center for Governmental Research, Erika Rosenberg, wrote that gubernatorial hopefuls are fixating on the STAR (School Relief Tax) program and the expense of other issues that could play a more direct role in bringing down local property taxes.

Also, as Monroe County’s sales tax issue makes it’s way into the courtroom (it is scheduled for Friday, June 23), have a listen as I talk with WXXI Morning Edition host Bud Lowell about getting that sales tax discussion into the meeting room. Have a listen right here (just click on the MP3 button).

Get to the Meeting Room

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

The Brooks sales tax solution is headed to a courtroom.

But perhaps where it ought to be is in a meeting room.

You know the court story by now. Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks announced a two-part sales tax solution to a projected county budget shortfall. First, the county would embrace a trade-off with the state, giving up sales tax proceeds to New York while also giving up the local share of Medicaid. This is called the “sales tax intercept.” The second part would be a sales tax increase of three-quarters of a penny.

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To Clarify or Not to Clarify

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

This isn’t where Steve Minarik wanted to go.

And state Republicans would like to stop from arriving there.

But maybe the state GOP should give a second thought before saying no to… Destination “Primary.”

You already know the story about John Faso gaining the designation of the state GOP faithful this week, grabbing more of the weighted vote than William Weld, the former Massachusetts governor. (Listen to Karen DeWitt’s fine wrap up here for a refresher.)

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Another Taxing Situation

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Monroe County has yet another sales tax complication on its hands

This one over gasoline.

The State Legislature has approved capping the sales tax on fuel as an answer to the gripe by motorists about higher gas costs. Gov. George Pataki sounded like he was ready to support it.

The state proposal also allows counties to cap the amount collected in sales tax on gas. The problem is…can counties afford it? The answers are all over the map.

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Too Much Medicaid Messaging

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Medicaid, Medicaid, Medicaid.

How the cost of this program plays on the minds of local government leaders as they try to make ends meet.

You can’t turn around without seeing some county legislator or executive lament how the local share of this vastly growing social service program beats down their budget.

Look at Monroe County. You’ve seen the stories about how county leaders want to deal with a gap in the budget. Republicans want a sales tax increase. Democrats want to charge towns that use the sheriff’s department directly for the service. Behind it all – Medicaid.

And, boy, if the county doesn’t remind you about it – over and over again. That bad state government, says the county leader. They push that Medicaid cost on the counties and won’t control the spending. Albany allows that runaway freight train to run right over us.

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