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State News Roundup: NY’s high cost of doing business; Greedy audits; CNN and Spitzer; Cuomo and Dicker; Corrupt officials; Food stamp fraud; Unions; Tax cap-Mandate relief; Clouds on budget horizon; Judicial salaries; Overpaid Public employees; Backwards medicaid bill; Junk legislation; Fracking finally moving; Moveon.org on move too-into NY

July 17, 2011

This of course is no surprise. We have brought you several studies in the past showing the same and it’s just the cost of doing business, it’s the overall business atmosphere of NYS. Consistently year after year overall ranked one of, if not thee, worst!

NY still near the top in cost of doing business

July 13, 2011

New York is the third most expensive state in the nation in terms of cost of business and the most expensive on the mainland, according to a ranking compiled by CNBC.

To reach its rankings for cost of business, CNBC crunched numbers including individual income and property taxes, business taxes, utility costs, expenses for wages and rental rates for office and industrial space.

When it finished tallying, New York was among the priciest places to do business, only slightly better than the prior year, when it ranked as the most expensive.

California ranked next in terms of cost of doing business, followed by Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.

CNBC said New York, with a population of nearly 20 million, also had the sixth highest cost of living.

Greed and desperation is what it is, and it’s against all kinds of industry sectors, from restaurants to auto dealers, the state is putting the screws to everyone to fil the state coffers!

Buffalo News: Restaurants Reeling from Tax Audits

Government auditors are nothing new, but the Buffalo News reports those from Albany are getting more aggressive and going after restaurants and the like in an effort to garner more revenue…..Their tactics are mob-like because they can be…A bunch of Buffalo-area retailers are crying foul….
Well, maybe they are taking a little for themselves and giving the state not quite enough….

I am sure the state likes having horror stories publicized as it encourages compliance.
Most small businesses don’t have the definitive paper trail (which the state makes as onerous and burdensome as possible) to refute their wild allegations, and these type of proceedings leave the little guy gasping for air as they cannot afford the defense.
Stings, audits, roadblocks, zero tolerance…they are all the new ways of collecting more and look for more of it in the future. I think its easier just to pay the sales and sin taxes, so you don’t have to worry about harassment….But this Buffalo News story suggests even obeying the law may not innoculate you from an ever more greedy government… 

We’ve brought several of these cases before and here’s yet another. In our view, when a public official is convicted of public corruption, their pensions should be stripped from them, having been entirely paid for by the taxpayers who have been aggrieved. These monies should then be earmarked to fund the costs of state units that investigate and prosecute. By doing so, the result is an offset of the tax funding otherwise needed to fund these units, and therefore a compensation to taxpayers.

NYC: Convicted Ex-Pol Andrew Stein Collecting Public Pension Of $61,060

While sitting around around doing nothing during hours he should be performing community service, disgraced ex-pol Andrew Stein is also on the city’s dime.

Speaking of one that should have been convicted but got off on a simple resignation: Spitzer finally canned from CNN show

Check out this first article, says it all doesn’t it (about both)? From the man who did more than his fair share to help take him down, some credit to Roger Stone! Here’s some of his articles,

CNN Does A Special On Sex Scandals In Politics But Leaves Out Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer Still Doesn’t Get It / NY Ethics Watchdog Has No Ethics / Parker Spitzer Tanking / Spitzer Black Socks Myth Shattered / Client #9 Movie Debunked / Darren Dopp Spitzer Fall Guy / Spitzer For Mayor – Madam Says No / Spitzer Steps on a Land Mine / Spitzer Movie Propaganda Piece / CNN’s Race To The Bottom / Spitzer Author, College Classmate Cheerleader for Comeback / Roger Stone on Spitzer Comeback-  / Kristen Davis the Real Deal / Spitzer Book is Revisionist Crap / Paybacks are a Bitch / The Spitzer Watch / Why Spitzer’s Comeback Should (and shouldn’t) Be Taken Seriously / Politico: Roger Stone’s long campaign against Eliot Spitzer / The Spitzer Coverup / Spitzer’s Man To Investigate Spitzer Coverup / Spitzer To Blame For AIG Crash / Spitzer Responsible For AIG Crash

Also, on the subject of media, in this case state media, this should come as no surprise:

NY Post’s Fred Dicker Exposed Again writes Roger Stone

The New York Post’s Fred Dicker isn’t a journalist. He’s a publicist for politicians who leak to him. He has little regard for facts or accuracy. In fact, when Fred doesn’t have a source he just makes one up. Few reporters are less well liked and none are less respected among their Albany and New York City peers. 

There is no better example than Fred’s July 4th story reporting that President Obama would jettison Vice President Joe Biden to replace him with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The story got substantial national pickup. There is only one problem. It wasn’t true. He quotes a Republican and a Democrat, neither with any particular knowledge as to what Obama might do. Dicker has no real source for the story because he made it up. Proving the point is the fact that the Obama campaign moved quickly to deny the story and assert that Biden will stay right where he is… 

Dicker’s story doesn’t even make sense. Why would Cuomo who has staunchly opposed tax increases in the recently passed budget based on the deleterious effect they would have on the economy join an Administration that is insisting on tax increases as part of a debt ceiling deal. Why would Cuomo, who is most definitely his own man and has demonstrated impressive executive skills, take a position without either responsibilities or power? Why would Cuomo, who has marked himself as a centrist by cutting spending , opposition to tax increases on the wealthy and his property tax cap tether himself to an Administration which thinks higher taxes and more spending are the answer to our economic problems? 

If Cuomo does want to run for President in 2016 or beyond why would he want to carry the baggage of the Obama administration rather than running on his own record of accomplishment which so far shows him to be a fiscal conservative and social liberal and is, so far, more impressive than the President’s 

Obama doesn’t require Cuomo on the ticket to carry New York, the bluest of blue states and the last thing he wants is a Vice President who is both smarter and more accomplished than he is. Dicker’s story, like most of Dicker’s stories- is bs.

Anatomy of a New York Post Smear / Dicker Busted Again / Dicking Fred Dicker

David King writes that Fred Dicker is a tool of the Cuomo administration.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo has an extraordinarily high job approval rating, a new poll found, but 51 percent of New Yorkers don’t want him to run for vice president, meanwhile Obama’s job approval lingers at 45 percent. (DN/NYP)

 

The big story here is as much about a government program gone wild, and the incompetency of bureaucrats that allowed for a criminal to be able to abuse the system so dramatically, as it is about the actions of the fraudsters themselves!

Fraud Scheme Draws 2 Pleas

A Brooklyn woman and a former New York City employee separately pleaded guilty Tuesday to criminal charges for their roles in a scheme that allegedly bilked more than $7 million from a federal food-stamp program administered by the city.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had alleged that Alice Bradford, 50 years old, of Brooklyn, fraudulently obtained food-stamp cards from the New York City Human Resource…

Will state unions lose legal edge? (We sure hope so!)

By RICK KARLIN Capitol bureau, July 13, 2011

ALBANY — Over the next two weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a decision to make regarding public employees — in addition, that is, to moving ahead with the threatened layoffs of state workers.

The other matter involves whether the governor will sign legislation giving public-sector unions an extra arrow in their legal quiver.

Every two years since it was put in place in 1994, the Injunctive Relief clause of the Taylor Law has been quietly extended by the Legislature and signed by the governor. The clause essentially speeds the process by which a union can seek a court injunction to stop what it deems as an unfair labor practice, a category that could include layoffs.

The Taylor Law covers relations between public employee unions and their bosses, such as municipal or state governments.

If a union feels it has been wronged or bargained with in bad faith, negotiators can always go to the courts on their own — but that can take time.

With injunctive relief, however, a union can go to the state’s Public Employment Relations Board and fast-track their complaint. If PERB’s board members agree a union has been wronged and faces imminent harm, the plaintiffs can seek an court injunction, a path experts say speeds matters due to the deference courts give to PERB.

“If the union feels that there is some immediate harm — like people are going to be laid off — then they can ask PERB on its behalf to file an injunction,” said Karlee Bolanos, a Rochester lawyer who represents government employers.

This year’s injunctive relief extender was sent to the governor’s desk on July 8. Cuomo has 10 days (excluding Sundays) to approve or veto it. The governor’s office says they are studying the measure.

The timing is interesting: The bill would have to be acted on by July 20 — two days before the first wave of state employee layoffs are scheduled to go into effect.

The administration has triggered the layoff process for more than 700 members of a major union, the Public Employees Federation, with more than 400 scheduled to leave the payroll by July 22. The two sides were back in talks on Tuesday. Layoffs could be rescinded if a tentative contract is reached.

Union and municipal officials alike expect Cuomo to sign the extender. It has passed every two years for more than a decade, PEF spokeswoman Darcy Wells said. “I have no reason to believe it won’t be extended,” added Peter Baynes, executive director of the state Conference of Mayors.

To be sure, the injunctive relief clause doesn’t mean unions could automatically block a layoff or any other management decision. Unions must first prove to PERB that some sort of bad-faith bargaining took place. And there’s no indication whether PEF would or could get Injunctive Relief with the current round of looming layoffs.

A veto would be seen as a sign Cuomo’s current skirmishes with public employee unions will extend beyond contract talks, which are typically contentious.

“If it weren’t passed, it would be particularly interesting,” said Bolanos.

New Yorkers live under one of the highest property tax burdens in the country; Teachers not contributing their share; Still high administration costs and salaries; and the need for overall pension reforms that while we have a little wiggle room, we really need a lot (the new Tier 6 band-aid doesn’t cut it); and the bottom line is that all these things contribute to the lack of mandate relief (we haven’t gotten) that is needed to actually make the tax cap work!

Impact of property tax cap

By: Nick Reisman

One of Governor Cuomo’s biggest achievements during past legislative session was the passage of a property tax cap. Now that advocates and opponents have gotten a chance to really break down the bill, our Nick Reisman has more on how they are starting to get a better sense of the impact it will have on upstate communities.

NEW YORK STATE — Like most students, school officials probably aren’t looking forward to heading back to the classroom. As they have in recent years, districts across the state will have to again take out a budget tax. But next year, they’ll have to do it within the new property tax cap signed into law last month.

The School Boards Association estimates 193 districts could have a difficult time living within the cap. They include Albany, Binghamton, Newburgh and Niagara Falls. The new cap places a limit on the amount districts can raise in taxes: Two 2 percent or the rate of inflation. SBA’s Kremer says Albany needs to deal with burdensome required spending known commonly as state mandates in order to help districts meet the cap.

Kremer said, “My hope is that comes the cause de jour next year during the session and the sooner the better.”

There is some narrow wiggle room for pensions, one of the biggest cost drivers for many districts. E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Empire Center says districts should reassess pension benefits.

“Ultimately, this is the cost of employee compensation. This is compensation for the teachers. Teachers themselves are not sharing in the rising pension costs. They’re contributing nothing or three percent, depending on when they joined the pension system and their contribution doesn’t rise at all. One way to have actually the employees themselves share in the rising costs of pensions is seek concessions in other areas of their contracts,” McMahon said.

Cuomo has said school districts should consolidate services and cut back on overhead by slashing pay for administrators in order to keep taxes down.

“They’re going to have to find savings. They’re going to have to find out how to provide the services but do it with modest increases year to year, because the tax payers can’t afford to do it,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

New Yorkers live under one of the highest property tax burdens in the country. The cap, which is wildly popular in polls, can be overridden by a 60 percent majority in a school budget vote.

How New York state ‘mandate relief’ is no relief at all

As I told you a couple of weeks back the only mandate relief I saw in the recently passed session in Albany was the repeal of Sec. 207-m, which required police chiefs get raises that in dollar amount was equal to the highest paid union member…Traditionally in Watertown that gave chiefs higher percentage raises than other management….Repealing it allows chief salaries to be set the same as other department heads.
The rest of what was peddled as relief was really not…This is not an area the Governor can claim much success in.

The (budget) Cloud On Cuomo’s Horizon?

Former Senate Finance Committee secretary Abe Lackman agrees with the congratulatory chorus singing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s praises for the unusually successful 2011 legislative session, but also warned about a “cloud” looming on the governor’s horizon.

“I think if there’s one cloud I would focus on going forward it’s whether the budget holds together for the remainder of the year,” Lackman said during a forum in NYC yesterday co-hosted by City Hall News; its sister publication, The Capitol; and Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs.

“…There are a lot of unknowns. One is: You’ve got $2.5 billion worth of Medicaid cuts. A lot of those cuts have not been identified yet. We’ll find out pretty soon.”

“We’re also going to find out for the first time how the June PIT revenues are. We’ll know that in two weeks. And we don’t know what’s going to come out of Washington with the debt cap in terms of yet another round of cost-shifting from the federal government to the state government.”

The forum was moderated by Adam Lisberg, editor of City Hall and The Capitol. It was sponsored by REBNY. The title: “Making History: Putting Albany’s 2011 Legislative Session in Prespective.”Also on the panel: Ken Shapiro, former chief counsel to Assembly Speakers Stanley Fink and Mel Miller; John Cahill, former secretary to ex-Gov. George Pataki; David Nocenti, former counsel to ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer; and Charles O’Byrne, former secretary to ex-Gov. David Paterson.

It was a pretty lively – and unusually candid – exchange.

  • Albany Vets: Cuomo Makes History, But Verdict Still Out On Budget Gov. Andrew Cuomo has plenty to boast about after six months in office, but he’ll have to wait at least a few more months for a verdict on his fiscal record. Questions remain on the level of savings that will be wrung out of Medicaid, how effective the property tax cap will be and whether…

And then there’s this absurd suggestion during of all things, such difficult fiscal times!

Courts suggest as much as 62 percent pay increase for NY judges

July 13, 2011 by naplesteapartypatriots

The state courts system is recommending that judges get a pay raise of up to 62 percent after having their pay frozen since 1999.

The recommendations come in a report this week from chief administrative judge Ann Pfau to the state Commission on Judicial Compensation, which is evaluating the pay for the state’s roughly 1,300 judges.

State Supreme Court judges receive a salary of $136,700, but Pfau recommended judges’ salaries increase to as high as $220,836 to put them on par with other states, based on cost of living standards. She recommended a salary between $192,000 and $220,836.

Pfau called the recommendations “prudent and responsible.” “After such a lengthy pay freeze, the cost of the reform of past practices must not prevent this commission from fulfilling its urgent mandate to provide appropriate compensation to New York’s judges,” she wrote in the report.

An urgent mandate? To give a $60k raise to 1300 judges which would cost the NY taxpayer an additional $78 million? A raise is one thing, but 62% increases – are you really living in an alternate economic reality? or are you actually prudent and responsible as you suggest? We suggest - obviously the former!

NY TIMES: Pay Frozen, More New York Judges Leave Bench. Well cry me a river, they’ve still got it made! There’s perhaps no more fitting finale to a long legal career than a judgeship. Ascending to the bench after years appearing before it can bring power, respect, personal satisfaction, reasonable hours and, often, free parking. And the tenure oh my, traditionally, once a judge a judge forever, with only 2 steps beyond: Retirement or death.

And on the subject of salaries gone wild:

NY DAILY NEWS: Abuse of authority? State agencies dishing out 6-figure salaries galore. It’s nice work if you can get it. Nearly 5,500 employees spanning more than three dozen state public authorities raked in six-figure salaries last year, the Daily News has learned. That amounts to 6% of the 90,237 state authority employees on the payroll, according to a recent review by the Authorities Budget Office. Overall, the budget office found that the average total compensation package for a state authority worker is $70,600. Full story

Insanely Overpaid Public Employees

When it comes to government employees, there’s plenty of news about laid off social workers in Florida (because they have too many along with an out of control entitlement system (and mentality) (like New York), furloughed forest rangers in Minnesota (a tax and spend Democrat Governor who has the state finances so haywire that the government is shutting down, and for darn sure someone has to be furloughed, why not a less powerful lobby group like the forest rangers),  and underpaid teachers everywhere else, so they claim (of course in NY or CA, who have the highest paid teachers in the country, this is far from true). Yet even during these hard times, there are thousands of government employees who still earn great, big salaries – many of them hundreds of thousands more than the $400,000 Obama pulls down each year. In New York, 35 employees were paid over $400k last year. Since 2005, the number of Federal employees earning $150,000 plus has jumped tenfold: going from 12,399 to 171,689. Much of the increase has been in medicine. Doctors at veterans hospitals and prisons averaged $179,500 in 2010, up from $111,000 in 2005.

Check out these few:

Basketball coach: Earnings: $1,200,000
Where:SUNY Binghamton, NY (SUNY=public taxpayer funded schools)

Kevin Broadus, who had a five-year $1 million contract, was let go from his job as head coach for little-known SUNY Binghamton men’s basketball team in 2009 over an ethics scandal. He sued the school for discrimination, and received a $1.2 million buyout to drop the suit. Taxpayers got to pick up all the legal bills too. In June, Broadus was hired as an assistant coach at Georgetown, where he has worked previously.

CEO and vice president hospital affairs: Earnings: $721,043
Where:Stonybrook Hospital, NY (Public taxpayer funded)

Running a university hospital makes Steven Strongwater the fourth-highest paid employee in the state, earning six times what a physician at the hospital makes. He was hired in 2006, after a long career as a hospital administrator.

Chancellor: Earnings: $560,038
Where:City University of New York (CUNY=same as SUNY)

As CUNY deals with $205 million in budget cuts, and Chancellor Matthew Goldstein proposes raising tuition on some 533,000 students in the system, he maintains earnings of $560,000.

 

Meanwhile, this is just plain dumb, backwards, and the opposite of the medicaid reforms we so desperately need in NY!:

NY POST: Medicaid bill fun for fraudsters.

The state Legislature has rammed through a bill making it more difficult to crack down on Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse, critics charge. The bill quietly passed both houses of the Legislature on June 24. The proposal — which sources said was passed to appease the powerful health-care industry (of course including their public unions) – makes it easier for crooked Medicaid recipients to evade detection by requiring the inspector general to give suspects written notice of an investigation five days in advance of an interview, and inform them that they face potential criminal referrals.

Speaking of junk legislation, do you realize just how much junk there is? In 180 days there’s around an average of  79 bills a day introduced in the state legislatures. It barely seems possible, never the less it is certainly ridiculous!

A report from the New York Public Interest Research Group

Found that 999 bills passed the Democratic-led Assembly in the six-month legislative session that ended last week. Democratic lawmakers passed an average of 8.6 bills; Republican lawmakers passed an average of 2.6 bills.

In the Republican-led Senate, Senate Republicans passed an average of 34 bills each; Senate Democrats passed an average of 4 bills each.

Overall, 677 bills passed both houses between the beginning of session in January and last Friday, when it ended. But that represents just 9 percent of the 14,336 bills that were introduced, NYPIRG found.

Some lawmakers ripped the process as stifling debate.

Assemblyman Joel Miller, R-Poughkeepsie, introduced 58 bills and none of them passed. He was the only lawmaker in the Legislature to vote against legislation to strengthen ethics laws, saying the bill didn’t address the inequities between the majority and minority conferences.

“When I talked about the problem with the ethics bill, nowhere did it force some kind of ethic behavior on part of leadership so that some democracy would seep its way into Albany,” he said.

Sen. Carl Kruger, D-Brooklyn, who was indicted in March on corruption charges, introduced the most bills, 372 bills, and none of them passed both houses. Only one even passed his own chamber.

As for Cuomo, he introduced 45 of his own bills and 16 passed, a 36 percent passage rate. Former Gov. David Paterson introduced 237 bills last year and passed 43 bills, for an 18 percent success rate.

On a more positive note, an issue finally taking a right turn:

Report: State To Lift Fracking Ban (Updated)

There is a report the Cuomo Admnistration will lift the ban on hydrofracking in search of natural gas reserves in the state’s Southern Tier.
Could be NYS is putting jobs and economic growth ahead of regulation and special interests.
Report: State To Lift Fracking Ban (Updated)

Cuomo Backs Fracking Report

The DEC report on hydrofracking is 700 pages and hardly the kind of light reading most of you had in mind for the holiday weekend…But Governor Cuomo has quickly embraced the plan which would allow drilling in areas of upstate outside watersheds for Syracuse and the City of New York…..On the upside the economic development would create jobs and tax revenue as has happened in neighboring Pennsylvania…
The downside is environmentalists will fight it on grounds its a potentially dangerous process.
Everybody wants environmental protections, but you never know what to believe from these people….A patch of land thats wet is suddenly called a wetland and then its useless…..Cleanups of things that aren’t threatening anyone while other blights and abandoned buildings go untouched…..
I just don’t trust the declarations from the environmental establishment.
Leave a mound of dirt in a spot they don’t like and they fine you…I have seen it happen.
So if the DEC says hydrofracking can begin, that certainly indicates only the most strident tree huggers oppose it.
the 700-plus pages

One poll shows New Yorkers are split on hydrofracking, which the Business Council predicts could generate 37,000 jobs (GNS). However, we would assert that there is a much higher support by the public than the polls show due to the disinformation factor. For 2 years the public has heard mostly negativity from press reports, politicians caving to the pressures of certain enviro/anti-industry lobbies allowing official or unofficial moratoriums, and most glaringly – the censorship of positive reports such as in the case of Univ of Buffalo and the State Geologists’ reports!

 

Also, On the subject of State Energy concerns:

BUFFALO NEWS: Politics keeps aid trapped in pipeline. Power Project profits fail to flow to region. More than $100 million in anticipated state aid to help revitalize the regional economy is stuck in political limbo. State officials, under the gun two years ago, agreed in principle to invest a portion of the New York Power Authority’s considerable profits, mostly generated by its hydropower plant in Lewiston, to promote economic development in Western New York. Officials did advance money to help finance the redevelopment of Canalside in downtown Buffalo, but more than two years later, no companion deal has been struck to benefit Niagara Falls and the rest of Niagara County. Full story

NY Patriots, Pay attention / Beware ! (too bad these groups are on the worng side of about every subject mentioned in this post today!)

Moveon.org on the move in NY – seeking participation in Saratoga County gatherings

By LUCIAN McCARTY lmccarty@saratogian.com

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Moveon.org and other left-leaning organizations are hoping to grow some grassroots in Saratoga County. The coalition of groups invites people to participate in small meetings this weekend to organize their base of support across the country, including gatherings at three Saratoga County locations — Saratoga Springs, Greenfield and Corinth.

“They’re designed to stop right-wing attacks on the middle class, to rebuild the American dream and determining what that means to us and what we are willing to commit to it,” said Sharon McFarlane, the Saratoga organizer of the events. “It’s happening all over the nation.”

When asked if the meetings are a response to the right-wing Tea Party organization that had an impact on the last election, she said, “You could call it that. But it’s different. It’s going to include more people, be honest and straightforward and it is going to be sane.”

The meetings are open to everyone and will give people a place to organize on “how to speak out, make our voices heard and have our votes counted,” she said.

The meetings took place at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 17, at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, and on Saturday and Sunday afternoon at private residences in Greenfield Center and Corinth. For details on the meetings in the homes, interested people had to register by going to civic.moveon.org/event/dreammeeting/.

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