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Fiscal Report Card on Governors, Cuomo scores “D”; Other rankings for NY remain the worst; Worst business climate, Highest gas taxes, Unemp still higher than national avg, and Debt 2nd highest nationally; NO Pay hikes for State lawmakers, already the 3rd highest compensated!; NYer’s poll “worse off than 4 years ago”; and Hope for our congressional delegation like in NY!

October 22, 2012

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2012

The recovery from the recent recession has been very sluggish, and the nation’s governors have struggled with the resulting budget deficits, unemployment, and other economic problems in their states. Many reform-minded governors elected in 2010 have championed tax reforms and spending restraint to get their states back on track. Other governors have expanded government with old-fashioned tax-and-spend policies.

That is the backdrop to this year’s 11th biennial fiscal report card on the governors, which examines state budget actions since 2010. It uses statistical data to grade the governors on their taxing and spending records—governors who have cut taxes and spending the most receive the highest grades, while those who have increased taxes and spending the most receive the lowest grades.

Four governors were awarded an “A” in this report card—Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rick Scott of Florida, Paul LePage of Maine, and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania. Five governors were awarded an “F”—Pat Quinn of Illinois, Dan Malloy of Connecticut, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, and Chris Gregoire of Washington.

Many states are facing major fiscal problems in coming years. Rising debt and growing health and pension costs threaten tax increases down the road. At the same time, intense global economic competition makes it imperative that states improve their investment climates. To that end, some governors are pursuing broad-based tax reforms, such as cutting income tax rates and reducing property taxes on businesses. The bad news is that many governors are expanding narrow “tax incentives,” which clutter the tax code in an attempt to micromanage the economy.

This report discusses these trends and examines the fiscal policy actions of each governor. Hopefully, policymakers in more states will be encouraged to follow the fiscal reform approaches of the top-scoring governors.

GOV CUOMO SCORES A “D” (45%)  – THE FULL REPORT HERE

(Our emphasis added: Whereas this report largely scores the policies and actions of the Governor himself, there is of course the notable impact of the State legislature which in NY is divided. We would contend without question, that the policies of the Democrat State Assembly drives the score down, while the policies of the Republican State Senate drives the score up.)

(Footnote2: Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2010 – Gov Paterson Scored an “F” (25%). Now ask yourself what has changed since besides the governor and the answer is consistent with our sentiments above. Rather than the Democrats having a complete lock on the state during which time they went on the most irresponsible spending spree along with other bad policies, Democrat Speaker Silver has since lost his dictorial super majority control of the Assembly, and the Senate was returned to Republican control. Voters in 2012 would be very well advised to keep in that way!)

 

AND BY THE WAY: New York’s jobless rate may have fallen for the first time in 11 months in September, albeit nominally, a welcome sign for Gov. Andrew  Cuomo. However, let’s not forget that the Ny State’s unemployment rate remains well above the national average!

New York’s 2013 Business Tax Climate Index Ranks 50th

New York ranks 50th in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index. The Index compares the states in five areas of taxation that impact business: corporate taxes; individual income taxes; sales taxes; unemployment insurance taxes; and taxes on property, including residential and commercial property. The ranks of neighboring states are as follows: Pennsylvania (19th), New Jersey (49th), Connecticut (40th), and Vermont (47th).

50-State Comparison of Business Tax Climates (data only)

2013 State Business Tax Climate Index (full study)

2012 Tax Freedom Day (full study) Arrives on May 1 in New York

Tax Freedom Day is the day when Americans finally have earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year. In 2012, New York taxpayers work until May 1 (ranked 2nd nationally) to pay their total tax bill. The Tax Freedom Days of neighboring states are: New Jersey, May 1 (ranked 2nd nationally); Pennsylvania, April 18 (ranked 14th nationally); Vermont, April 19 (ranked 13th nationally); Massachusetts, April 22 (ranked 8th nationally); and Connecticut, May 5 (ranked 1st nationally).

New York’s State and Local Tax Burden Second-Highest in Nation

During the past three decades, New York’s state and local tax burden percentage has ranked among the nation’s highest, currently estimated at 12.1% of income (2nd nationally), above the current national average of 9.8%…

New York’s Individual Income Tax System
New York’s personal income tax system consists of seven brackets with a top rate of 8.82%, kicking in at an income level of $10,000,000. Among states levying personal income taxes, this top rate ranks the state 7th highest nationally. New York’s 2010 state-level individual income tax collections were $1,796 per person, which ranked 1st highest in the nation.

New York Sales and Excise Taxes
New York levies a 4% general sales or use tax on consumers, below the national median of 6% [but localities are permitted to levy their own high sales taxes]. In 2009, New York’s state and local governments collected $1,170 per person in general sales taxes and $580 in excise taxes per person, for a combined figure of $1,750, which ranks 6th highest nationally. New York’s gasoline tax stands at 49 cents per gallon-the highest gas tax in the nation. New York’s cigarette tax stands at $4.35 per pack of twenty-the highest nationally.

State Gasoline Tax Rates,as of January 1, 2012 (Cents Per Gallon)

State, Excise Tax, Other Taxes and Fees, Total, Rank

N.Y., 8.1¢, 40.9¢, 49.0¢, 1st (highest)

New York Property Taxes among Nation’s Highest
New York’s local governments collected $2,136 per capita in property taxes during fiscal year 2009, which is the latest year the Census Bureau published state-by-state property tax collections. New York is one of the13 states that collect no state-level property taxes. Its per capita property tax collections in FY2009 rank 5th nationally.
State and Local Property Tax Collections Per Capita by State

New York’s Corporate Income Tax System
New York’s corporate tax structure is composed of a flat rate of 7.1% on all corporate income. Among states levying corporate income taxes, New York’s rate ranks 24th highest. In 2010, state-level corporate tax collections (excluding local taxes) were $201 per capita and ranked 7th highest nationally.

NY GOP to Comptroller: Comptroller DiNapoli’s Oversight Begins At Home (and about our state’s debt level, 2nd highest in the nation)

Albany, NY… August 19, 2012 – Today the New York GOP released the following statement in response to Comptroller DiNapoli’s comments regarding Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan:

Tom DiNapoli is what happens when you take a career politician with no experience in economics, but make him Comptroller anyway.
The man responsible for oversight of New York’s budget and finances just said that although he can’t come up with “a hard number,” he was certain that the Romney-Ryan plan would be “incredibly devastating” for New York.
The role of the Comptroller is to be fair, honest and nonpartisan. His public statements should be based on facts, not biased speculation.
Well here are the facts: the Obama White House hasn’t produced a serious federal budget since 2009, with the Democrat-controlled Senate voting down his last two budgets 99-0 and 97-0.
Obama’s plan for solving the Nation’s fiscal crisis, “tax the rich!”, is unserious (Obama’s beloved “Buffett Rule” would raise a paltry $47 billion over ten years, against projected trillion dollar yearly deficits ), deliberately divisive, and hits high-income New York worse than almost any other state.
Where is Tom DiNapoli’s outrage over Obama’s failure to manage America’s finances?
Back in New York, the New York Post just reported that Democratic Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera “used a taxpayer-funded nonprofit as her personal piggy bank, installed her unqualified lover as the group’s leader – and then helped him get a fat raise so he could take her on nice dates.”
Rivera joins Carl Kruger, Pedro Espada, Vito Lopez and too many others in the overcrowded Democrats’ Hall of Shame.
Where is Tom DiNapoli’s outrage over Democrats’ corruption in Albany?
Where is his oversight?
New York is in crisis: when adding the total of outstanding official debt, pension and other post-employment benefits liabilities and Unemployment Trust Fund loans, New York’s total debt is over $305 billion, worse than every state other than California.
Now more than ever, New Yorkers need a comptroller who will keep a credible watchful eye over our state’s budget and finances.
But Tom DiNapoli would rather pitch partisan attacks.

Oppose any Pay Hikes for NY State Lawmakers

Regardless of whether they last had a raise 12 years ago or 20 years ago, and reagrdless of what additional people’s business is completed this year! NYS lawmakers are the 3rd highest compensated legislators in the country (of course #1 being California) and as such, especially considering NY’s poor record in so many other areas, do we really need to see NY become the 2nd, or even #1, highest paid government in the nation?

Legislator Compensation, 2012

Source: Empire Center – By state as of April 2012New York Ranks third highest of all states in yearly salary
State Salary Per Diem (Allowance for Daily Expenses)
New York $79,500/year $171/per full day and $61 per half day.

Cuomo Says Do “The People’s Business” Before Pay Raise

Governor Cuomo says if state lawmakers are looking for a pay raise in a post election session, they’ll have to accomplish some items on his agenda first. The governor says before state legislators ask him for a pay hike, as is expected once elections are finished, they’ll have to make progress on some unfinished business from the last legislative session first.

Cuomo says he’s seeking action on increasing the minimum wage, reforming New York City’s Stop and Frisk laws, and decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. “The concept of a pay raise is’ well, the legislature’s really done a good job’,” asid Cuomo.

But the governor says the lawmakers would then have to “perform well”. “To perform well means, in my book, to do the people’s business,” he said.

Cuomo is not ruling out a pay hike. He’s said in the past that his commissioners need a raise. He says the relatively low pay has been a barrier to hiring quality people.

More New Yorkers think they’re worse off today than four years ago: Poll

ALBANY — More New Yorkers think they’re worse off than better off today vs. four years ago, according to a new poll.

Siena College found 47 percent of Empire State residents say they’re worse off now, while 35 percent believe they’re better off.

But 50 percent think the nation’s economic problems are only temporary, up five percent from a year ago. Still, the other half thinks America’s best economic days are gone, according to the survey, which was underwritten by First Niagara Bank.

There’s also a deep divide over Obamacare. Forty percent agree with Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney and favor repeal of President Obama’s health care plan that Romney says will take money out of Americans’ pockets, while 43 percent back Obama, who says the law will ensure coverage for everyone.

Meantime, the Oct. 2-6 telephone survey of 621 state residents found 68 percent favor increasing federal income taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 and most oppose reducing corporate tax rates, 54 to 31 percent.

Three quarters of New York residents support increased development of domestic oil and natural gas — though the survey did not specifically ask about “hydrofracking,” the controversial technique of drilling for natural gas with a chemical, water and sand mix as the Cuomo administration weighs whether to allow it in upstate New York’s Marcellus shale.

Altschuler leading in the latest two polls! Newsday silent. »

Bishop AltschulerOct182012pm / Take a look at James Hohmann’s item in Politico’s Morning Score today on a new poll showing Altschuler leading Tim Bishop by 5 points, 48 – 43. Politico’s Morning Score today:…

Randy Altschuler Job Creator vs. Tim Bishop Job Destroyer
Tim Bishop Is In Deep Trouble – After weeks of being dogged by questions about his ethics and recently “earning” the dubious distinction of being named one of the 12 most corrupt Members of Congress by a leading, non-partisan watchdog group, Tim Bishop is in deep trouble.

New York’s Tim Bishop named CREW’s Most Corrupt

 2012 State Senate and State Assembly rankings released

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GOP Senate candidate backs gas drilling, rips Gillibrand. Other important issues. Nov 6th – Vote Wendy for NY

October 14, 2012
Wendy LongFILE – In this March 16, 2012 file photo, New York City attorney Wendy Long speaks during the New York State Republican Convention in Rochester, N.Y.  /  AP Photo/David Duprey, File

2:55 PM, Oct. 11, 2012  |Written by Associated PressALBANY, N.Y. (AP)— Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long says developing upstate New York’s natural gas formations could bring desperately needed jobs and criticized Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand over the issue.Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is considering whether to allow the exploration of shale gas through the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It is not a federal decision, though Gillibrand says concerns about clean air and water should be addressed before drilling moves forward.Long said during an Albany news conference Thursday that Gillibrand has cast her lot with the “far-left” environmentalists and celebrities who oppose fracking. Gillibrand campaign spokesman Glen Caplin said he would not comment on what he called conspiracy theories from a struggling campaign.

Long said Cuomo should move faster, but blamed the delay on outside pressure.

Wendy Long shared a link.

22 hours ago Meanwhile, my opponent walks across the state with phony, so-called ‘jobs’ bills that are nothing more than spending a few more taxpayer dollars and not even getting any more certain jobs.
Wendy Long: Don’t forget about the Utica Shale! | Albany Watch
statepolitics.lohudblogs.com
Standing next to a giant map of the gas-rich rock formation spanning several four states and two Canadian provinces, GOP Senate candidate Wendy
Wendy Long shared a link.
10 hours ago To me, the real threat to public health is the lack of jobs…
Long: Gillibrand’s positions hurt jobs
blog.timesunion.com
It is an economic opportunity. It does help us to become independent of Middle Eastern oil. Those two goals are
Marcellus & Utica Shale Reserves Will Provide Jobs for New York
“From Welch Allyn in Skaneateles, to Sikorsky in Big Flats to GM in Honeoye Falls, New York is losing manufacturing
Wendy Long shared a link.

October 4 President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address: “And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.” Senator Gillibrand’s response: “I did not love that part of the speech.”
Long asks Sen Gillibrand to please explain to New Yorkers where she disagrees with the President
“The fact is Senator Gillibrand wants to have it both ways — telling editorial boards
Wendy Long shared a link.

Wednesday Senator Gillibrand’s penchant to tax whatever moves, spend whatever you have, and regulate the rest view towards government is contributing to New York’s tax hell.
New York’s Tax Climate from Bad to Worst with the Help of Senator Gillibrand
Wendy Long shared a link.
October 8 I was on “Fox and Friends” this morning to talk more about this phony “War on Women.”
Are Democrats fanning the war on women?
video.foxnews.com
New York Senate candidate Wendy Long weighs in
America has a “spending-control crisis” — and the Democrats are trying to divert attention from it by creating a GOP war on women, New York
These are the people who have created this big government that is really putting such a drag on our economy and causing our continued high unemployment — and it’s that terrible record that my opponent and the Democrats want to distract attention from.

Senator Wendy, if You Please

Kathryn Jean Lopez writes on NRO: If Republicans ran the culture, Wendy Long would be a household name. She’d be a heroine. She’d be celebrated. She’d have a Barbie doll named

Religious Liberty Is Issue for Candidates

Posted on 03 October 2012. by Wendy Long

While crisscrossing the state in my campaign for the U.S. Senate, I was recently sitting around a table talking with some women. I asked them, “What’s the most important issue facing our nation and our state?”

The tears welled up in one woman’s eyes, then spilled down her cheeks.

“Wendy, my daughter just graduated from college. She has a huge amount of debt. She can’t find a job anywhere. I was so proud of her, and now we don’t know what to do. Our children have become New York’s biggest export.”

With so many families struggling with unemployment, the high cost of groceries and gas, Medicare and Social Security headed for bankruptcy, and the federal government debt skyrocketing to unprecedented levels, it’s understandable that many Catholics here in New York have not focused on another threat to our values – a threat that’s as big as the failure of our elected officials to address our broken economy.

As I write this, our freedom as Catholics is being stomped upon by the Obama Administration. Obamacare is forcing Catholic institutions such as hospitals, schools, and charities, as of Aug. 1, to provide and pay for insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortion-causing drugs.

The Obama Administration and my opponent, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, insist that this government mandate is an issue of “women’s health.” Sen. Gillibrand actually claims that the Catholic Church is behind “attacks that are being launched against women’s rights and women’s health.”

Her charge is so grossly wrong that it is hard to know where to start. But let me set the record straight:

– The Catholic Church has been at the forefront of protecting the lives and health of women, and all Americans. I don’t think there is another institution in our nation’s history that has done so much for so many – whether in caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, helping the poor, educating our children, and defending and protecting the weakest among us. The Church and her institutions have never attacked anyone, and they are certainly not attacking women.

– The Catholic Church believes in free will. The Church passes on to us its teaching of more than two millennia about human dignity and the sanctity of human life. The Church offers unconditional healing and help to all of us sinners. But Holy Mother Church has never — ever — attempted, as my opponent claims, to “make medical decisions for someone” who is employed by a Church institution.

– Our nation was born of the bedrock principle of freedom of religion: that the government may not dictate to people of faith that they have to take actions that violate that faith. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan has said, “The federal government should do what it’s traditionally done since July 4, 1776, namely back out of intruding into the internal life of the Church.”

– But for the first time in the history of our country, a President of the United States – and his allies, like my opponent – are ordering faithful Catholics and other people of conscience to genuflect at their altar of almighty government, to fall in line and obey, even if it violates their religious beliefs. If they do not abide by Obamacare’s abortion-contraception-sterilization mandate, many Catholic charitable institutions – as well as private businesses run by Catholic Americans – will face millions of dollars in fines that will force many of them out of business.

– This issue has nothing whatsoever to do with women’s health. It is about government intrusion into our Catholic faith and into the lives of all people of conscience. No one’s faith and beliefs will be safe if the Obama-Gillibrand mandate is allowed to stand. President Obama and Senator Gillibrand intend to force their anti-Catholic views on every single Catholic in this nation. And if they can crush Catholics under their boot heel, they can crush anyone else, too.

The Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Rockville Centre have filed suit against the Obama Administration to reverse the clear violation of religious liberty and freedom of conscience in Obamacare.

Bishop DiMarzio has issued the call to all of us: “As citizens of a nation that prides herself on religious liberty, we should be outraged that the government would … coerce any institution to cooperate with what they deem to be evil.”

Amen. We cannot sit by silently any longer as Washington attempts to crush our faith and our Church.

Watertown Daily Times | Long on chances against Gillibrand: ‘It’s not impossible’
Wendy E. Long, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New York,
The fight is worth fighting.
Wendy Long shared a link.

September 29 I jumped into this race because I believe, in 2012, everything is on the line for America. Our free-market economy is on the line. Capitalism is on the line. The dignity of work and the dignity of human life are on the line. Our security; our energy independence; so much is at stake in this election…
Wendy Long shared a link.

September 28 From Obamacare to defense cuts, from Welch Allyn to Sikorsky, the effects of Senator Gillibrand’s failed economic policies are being felt by New York’s manufacturers and killing jobs and dreams for New Yorkers in the process.
On Nov 6th – VOTE Long – “NY needs Wendy”

Yay, NY slips back into last place! The most unfriendly tax state and worst business environment / Also NYS debt 2nd highest nationally / And, are you better off then 4 years ago? – less NYer’s think so

October 12, 2012

New York Ranked Last in Business Tax Climate

A survey of the panoply of taxes levied by government places New York dead last in the climate for small business, according to a survey by the tax foundation.
That’s the reason you see an entire industry is what is called ‘economic development’. Agencies and law firms trading tax abatements in an effort to create the illusion NY is a good place to do business. The downside is that it masks the ambient climate for those businesses and individuals not granted the largesse.
Abatements on things like sales tax and property tax have the result of more regressivity for those left paying such taxes. Yet if you don’t do it, the mantra becomes ‘what are you doing to create jobs ?’
States like NY have created an endless scenario of the dog chasing its own tail.

50th-place state tax ranking stings New  Yorkers

Cuomo official calls study biased in favor of flat tax

By Rick  Karlin, rkarlin@timesunion.com • 518-454-5758 • @RickKarlinTUThursday, October 11, 2012

ALBANY — The Washington, D.C.-based Tax  Foundation made some waves earlier in the week when it handed New York a  last place spot in its national rankings of the tax-friendly, or unfriendly  states.

“New York scores at the bottom,” concluded the report.

The state Business  Council shot back on Tuesday, hours after New York’s 50th-place ranking,  saying that the survey overlooked the strides Gov. Andrew  Cuomo has made in improving the business climate, including a 2 percent cap  on property taxes.

“This report does not reflect the progress New York has made in its budget  and tax policy over the past two years,” said Business Council President and CEO Heather  Briccetti.

Then on Thursday, Cuomo’s secretary, Larry  Schwartz, responded by saying the survey was biased and put too much  emphasis on income and other taxes and not enough on the property tax burdens,  which often trump other costs in New York.

“They basically took a bunch of data sets and manipulated them to fit their  worldview, which is based upon a flat tax, not a progressive tax, which we have  in New York state,” Schwartz said during an interview on Talk 1300 radio with  host Fred  Dicker.

He noted the conservative, non-partisan Tax Foundation supports the concept  of a flat tax, as opposed to a progressive tax where higher earners pay a larger  percentage of their incomes.

“If they had bothered to look at the taxes, they would have known that New  York businesses pay over five times as much in property taxes to localities as  they do in income taxes,” added Schwartz.

He said that businesses in the Empire State pay $443 per employee in  corporate income taxes while they pay $2,300 per employee in property taxes.

The foundation does put more weight on income taxes than property taxes, said  economist Scott  Drenkard, who worked on the survey.

But that’s because there is more variability in income tax rates between the  states and the idea of the survey is to point out the competitive differences,  he said.

For property taxes, he said, the rates are similar in most places — except  for New York and New Jersey, which are in a class of their own since the taxes  are so high.

“It’s more tightly clustered,” he said of property tax rates in the other 48  states.

The off-the-charts property tax rates in New York and New Jersey are borne  out in the numbers, said Drenkard, who agreed with Schwartz’s $2,300 per person  property tax cost to business.

He said that was basically a per capita calculation that looked at the cost  spread out over the entire state’s population of 19.4 million people, pitted  against the total amount of property tax dollars that are paid each year.

(Tax department figures show that in 2009, the latest year for which full  data was available, $44 billion in property taxes were paid: $26 billion by  residential owners and $16 billion by businesses).

Schwartz had other problems with the survey. He scoffed at some of the  top-ranked states, such as third place Nevada (Wyoming, with no income taxes and  lots of oil and gas revenue, took the top spot for business-friendly tax  environments).

Even though Nevada looks good on taxes, Schwartz pointed to its 14 percent  unemployment rate, compared to 9 percent in New York.

“I’d rather be in New York and not in Nevada,” Schwartz said.

Drenkard noted Cuomo hasn’t been shy about using his organization’s rankings  in the past — in his 2011 State of the State speech he alluded to New York’s  poor rating (they were also in last place at the time) in pointing to the need  for change.

“He didn’t have a problem with it then, but I guess he has a problem with it  now,” Drenkard said, alluding to Cuomo.

 

DiNapoli: State spent $6,859 per NYer last year, state debt equals $3,253 per NYer (2nd highest nationally)

Oct 12, 2012   |  Jon Campbell Albany Bureau

ALBANY — The state spent $6,859 per resident last fiscal year while cutting its total spending by $1.3 billion, according to the state Comptroller’s Office.

Including federal funds, the state spent $133.5 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31 — a 1 percent decrease from the previous year, an annual financial report from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found.

But since 2008, state spending increased by 15 percent, about twice the rate of inflation. State debt totaled $63.3 billion last year — about $3,253 per resident, according to DiNapoli’s office.

“State policy decisions in the past two years have made budgetary balance a primary goal, but challenges still remain,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The challenge is to build on the progress made and put New York State on a truly sustainable fiscal path.”

All told, 68 percent of the state’s spending went to cover education and health costs, according to the report.

Medicaid costs, for example, have increased steadily since the 2008-09 fiscal year, from $32.8 billion to $41.4 billion last year. The state spends more per pupil on primary and secondary education, according to DiNapoli, spending $18,618 during the 2009-10 school year.

 

 

Are NYers better off than four years ago? More say ‘No’

10:53 AM, Oct 12, 2012   | Joseph Spector Albany Bureau Chief
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ALBANY — Forty-seven percent of New Yorkers said they are worse off now than they were four years ago, compared to 37 percent who said they are better off today, according to a Siena College poll Friday.

The poll of 621 state residents found that voters felt their finances were in worse shape than in 2008, the last presidential election. When asked about their savings and their income versus expenses, a plurality of voters – 40 percent in both cases – said they were worse off.

“New Yorkers continue to climb a steep financial hill. Few say that their load has lightened since this time in 2008,” said Don Levy, the director of the Siena Research Institute, which conducted the poll that was underwritten by First Niagara Bank.

The poll comes a month before the presidential elections, as well as elections for Congress and the state Legislature. Enrolled Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York by a 2-to-1 margin.

Voters were split on their outlook of the national economy. Fifty percent, up from 45 percent a year ago, said they thought the nation’s current economic problems were temporary, the poll ssid. Half of those polled thought the country’s best days had passed.

Levy said the results showed more voters were looking, albeit slightly, to a brighter future.

“With half saying the economic glass is more full than empty as they look to the future, the trail may be evening out as we hit the next bend,” he said in a statement. “Younger New Yorkers, Democrats, and those with jobs are more optimistic than their older, Republican and not-working neighbors.”

The view of the economy was weakest in upstate and the New York City suburbs, the poll found.

By a 51 percent to 34 percent margin, upstate voters said they were worse off than four years. The sentiment was similar in the suburbs: 50 percent to 32 percent. In New York City, 42 percent of voters said they were worse off than they were four years ago, compared to 37 percent who said their situation had improved.

The economy, polls have shown, is the top issue in both New York and the nation.

New York’s unemployment rate in August was 9.1 percent — one percentage point above the national rate.

A report Tuesday by the Tax Foundation, a fiscally conservative group based in Washington D.C., said that New York’s tax climate was the worst in the nation.

Friday’s Siena poll found that the percentage of households with a member losing a job was unchanged from last year — 18 percent last year to 17 percent this month.

The “Annual New York Survey of the Economy and Personal Finances” by Siena College, which is located near Albany, had a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points. It was conducted Oct. 2-6.

NY Counties, Local governments, still asking/screaming/begging, need MANDATE Relief

October 12, 2012

Struggling counties urge relief of state mandates

(10/12/2012) New York’s counties are making a push to get Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers to take their growing fiscal crises seriously. They say they need relief from some state mandates that they say are bringing some counties to the brink of…

Budget director sees another tough year for NYS

(10/03/2012) Top New York officials say it’s going to be another difficult year for the state budget. Governor Cuomo has already told state agencies to keep spending flat, and those that depend on state programs are not counting on big increases….

Counties “govern by triage,” seek mandate relief   

by David Sommerstein
Albany, NY, Oct 10, 2012 — The North Country is seeing some tough times in county government, with Essex County facing a $13 million shortfall, and St. Lawrence County projecting a 20 percent property tax increase.
New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen Acquario says counties are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, counties have to pay for dozens of mandated services, from Medicaid to child welfare, which cost more every year. On the other hand, they now have to keep tax increases within a property tax cap.
Acquario told David Sommerstein the situation leaves counties essentially “governing by triage”.
I think the last thing the state needs to do is run around the state saying how great of a job they’ve done to cap property tax. That’s not the answer.

Local government, in this particular instance, the county governments, have been forced to make some pretty, fairly drastic cutbacks in local services. What are they? Nursing homes, certainly in the North Country that’s happening, Washington County, Essex County and some others are looking at this certified home health agency.

So what’s causing the pressure right now, what the listeners are seeing unfold in front of them is a sign of the times. Largely flat revenue…meaning the sales tax that we use to operate the government, and the other piece of the revenue is property tax.

And the governor has told the people of New York the property taxes are too high, that we should cap them. The counties are struggling mightily to try to keep those taxes down, but are having a very hard time of this, because of the amount of money that has to go to Albany to pay for state expenditures delivered locally.

Some county lawmakers are saying we have to cut things like roads and bridges, and sheriff road patrols were suggested, help for the elderly, offices for the aging. A county legislator in St. Lawrence County, Fred Morrill, said ‘yes these are essential things, but they’re not mandated.’

The vast majority of these mandates that the counties are tied up with, the largest of these being Medicaid, are unfunded mandates or underfunded mandates. So what does that mean? That means that the county government has to apply all of its sales tax. The county government has to apply all of its property tax, just about 80 percent of those types of revenues.

Maybe not all of them, but the vast majority of those two revenue sources go to pay for these nine state-mandated programs and services. And that’s putting the pressure on the local services.

What do you think that the state, which also doesn’t have money to spend, should do to ameliorate the situation for the counties?

I think the last thing the state needs to do is run around the state saying how great of a job they’ve done to cap property tax. That’s not the answer. That’s a step in the right direction, our property taxes are too high. An individual is going to have a hard time paying an additional $165 a year in high property taxes. And I think that capping the revenue is hardly an answer.

To what extent are counties responsible for taking sort of political advantage of saying we only raise property taxes by so much in the better years, and not paying enough attention to sort of making sure they had enough of a fund balance in these lean years that we are in now?

I think that the counties, over time, have been reluctant to raise property taxes, because they’re high in the first instance, that our economy has been such that many people are out of work, that these legislators are citizens too.

They do not like to raise property taxes, for additional programs. They are being forced to raise property taxes to pay for programs that are mandated by the State, and less [for] local services. The situation at the local level has become unmanageable.

Steven Acquario directs the New York State Association of Counties. NYSAC has released a list of dozens of mandated services the State should pay more for.

Struggling counties want some rules eased

Oct 11, 2012 By

New York’s counties are making a push to get Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers to take their growing fiscal crisis seriously, and let them off the hook for some state mandates that they say are bringing some counties to the brink of bankruptcy. Steve Acquario, with the New York Association of Counties, says his lobby and advocacy group has already begun researching laws governing municipal bankruptcies, in case struggling counties in New York have need of guidance.  But he says he hopes it would be a last resort. “Yes we can declare bankruptcy.” Acquario said. “But it’s a drastic measure, what is that telling the people of New York?  That we can’t run our government? It’s a terrible situation.” Counties say they are squeezed between the recently enacted 2% property tax cap and state rules that they say they’re running out of money to fund.  Acquario says the data shows a “very serious” widening gap between the money that counties take in in revenue, largely from property taxes, and the cost of state mandated programs. That difference will reach $4.2 billion dollars annually by the end of the decade.  “ We call it a jaws chart,” he said. One county, Cortland County in Central New York, is almost at its constitutional taxing limit, several counties are under a state run financial control board, and others are spending down their reserves at an alarming rate.
Acquario says the largest mandate that accounts for much of the counties’ budgets is the requirement that counties pay for 25% of the state’s $54 billion dollars in annual Medicaid costs.  The federal government pays just over half, and the state pays for the other quarter, but Acquario says federal and state government have greater resources to come up with the money, like an income tax and other taxes and fees. He says counties have to rely on just the property tax and a “narrow band” of taxpayers to fund a vast health care program. He says it’s “absurd” and no longer sustainable. Governor Cuomo and the legislature have already taken over all county Medicaid expenses that rise above 3% each year, but have not agreed to take over all of the $7.5 billion dollars in costs to counties and New York City. Acquario suggests that perhaps a take over could be done in phases, with the state paying for long term care costs first.  He says nearly $3 billion dollars in savings expected from the federal Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare,  could help pay for the partial takeover. The counties also believe a waiver request sought by the Governor’s Medicaid Redesign Team from the federal government could also bring in more funds. And they urge Cuomo’s Medicaid overhaul panel to look at reducing some benefits, as well, to more closely match what’s offered in the private sector.   The counties would also like to get out of an obligation to pay for almost half of the costs of pre school education for disabled children. Acquario says school districts should pay those costs instead.  He says if schools were responsible for the expenses, they might find ways to save money in the program. Acquario has an answer for people whose eyes glaze over when they hear the term mandate relief. “Look at their tax bill,” he said. “If they’re flat, they’re fortunate.”  Without help from the state, he expects 20% of all counties to exceed the tax cap in the budgets they are now putting together. If 60% of a county’s legislators agree to raise taxes beyond the 2% limit, then the property tax cap can be overridden.  County leaders are also taking other steps to reduce costs, like privatizing the running of nursing homes, or selling them outright.  They are also laying off workers. Governor Cuomo appointed a task force to try to provide some relief from mandates. It was due to issue a report last June, but missed that deadline and has not set a new date to report.

Counties Push for Cuomo to Let Them Off the Hook

October 11, 2012   By Karen DeWitt: NYS Public Radio/WXXI

New York’s counties are making a push to get Governor Andrew Cuomo and  state lawmakers to let them off the hook for some mandates that they say  are bringing some to the brink of bankruptcy.

Steve Acquario, with the New York Association of counties, said his lobby and advocacy group has already begun researching laws governing municipal bankruptcies, in case struggling counties in New York have need of guidance.

“Yes, we can declare bankruptcy,” Acquario said. “But it’s a drastic measure, what is that telling the people of New York?  That we can’t run our government? It’s a terrible situation.”

The gap between what counties take in from property taxes and what they pay for state-mandated programs will reach $4.2 billion annually by the end of the decade, he said.

Acquario said the largest mandate that accounts for 25 percent of the state’s $54 billion in annual Medicaid costs.

Cuomo and the legislature have already taken over all county Medicaid expenses that rise above 3 percent each year, but have not agreed to take over all of the $7.5 billion in costs to counties and New York City.

Counties say they are also squeezed between the recently enacted 2 percent property tax cap and state rules.

In Cortland County, located in Central New York, taxation is almost at its constitutional limit. Several others are under a state-run financial control board. And still others are spending down their reserves at an alarming rate.

Cuomo appointed a task force to try to provide some relief from  mandates. It was due to issue a report last June, but missed that  deadline and has not set a new date to report.

Association of Counties suggests steps to cut state mandates

Oct 8, 2012   | Written by Jessica Bakeman Albany bureau

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ALBANY — The state Association of Counties released a report Monday with recommendations for how the state can cut down on local governments’ mandate costs, arguing that transferring more decision-making power to county officials will help save money.

Local officials have said that unfunded state mandates — programs or regulations required by state law that use local funds — are contributing to fiscal stress for most municipalities and could even to lead to financial insolvency for some. The 2 percent property-tax cap, which limits revenue that governments can raise through taxes, has confounded the problem, officials have said.

“Unless and until the state relieves some of these mandates, our counties will continue to face structural deficits,” said Stephen Acquario, the association’s executive director, in a statement. “Counties are doing their part to lower the costs they can control, but they have no ability to reduce the costs handed down by Albany.”

New York’s counties combined are projected to experience a fiscal gap of more than $10 billion over the next five years, according to the report. Counties are currently operating under more than 40 state mandates, the report said. When grouped together, the nine costliest programs are projected to outpace property-tax revenues by $130 million in 2013.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has touted its mandate-relief efforts. Over the next three years, New York will take over the growth in counties’ Medicaid costs, freezing them by 2015 and creating an estimated savings of $1.2 billion. The state also enacted a new, less-generous pension tier for public workers, which is estimated to save $80 billion over 30 years.

Also, Cuomo has praised the success of the tax cap. In a report last month, his office said that the 2 percent tax growth is 40 percent less than the previous 10-year average.

“Through the governor’s reforms, like the property tax cap, pension reform and hundreds of millions of dollars in mandate relief he fought to pass this year, New Yorkers will save billions of dollars in their property taxes,” Cuomo’s office said in an email to supporters last week.

Local officials said that Cuomo has done more than past governors in mandate relief, but there is still work to be done.

The report’s authors offered 51 recommendations for mandate relief.

“We’re not looking for money — I know I am not looking for money from the state of New York,” said Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli. “We’re just looking to say we can no longer afford all these programs. There is a lot of waste.

“What we need to do is not just shift costs,” he continued. “It’s time to start changing the way these programs are operated because it’s obvious there are counties and cities in this state that are on the verge of insolvency.”

Medicaid, the health insurance program for poor and disabled people, is the largest state mandate on counties. Even with the state’s pledge to pick up some of counties’ Medicaid tab, local officials have said the cost is an overwhelming burden. The report suggests the state gradually take over all local costs associated with Medicaid.

Counties’ share is $7.57 billion annually, the report said. The state pays $21.8 billion, and the federal government pays $27 billion.

In the report, the authors write that the state can generate new revenue to cover all local Medicaid costs by enacting the recommendations of Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team, a group tasked with finding and eliminating inefficiencies in Medicaid spending, and by utilizing savings that will follow full implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act.

In many recommendations, counties are asking for the state to allow them more decision-making power, which the report suggests will cut costs.

For example, to provide relief for preschool special-education mandates, counties suggest allowing them more say in the placement and transportation of each child. Operating the state-mandated program costs counties $637 million annually; the state’s share is $936 million.

The report argues that although counties pay 40.5 percent of costs for preschool special education, school districts and parents have the power to decide where students are placed.

Authors argue that counties should have a say so they might advocate for the most cost-efficient providers.

In other examples, the report claims that counties should have more power in determining staffing and performance criteria for child welfare programs. The report also recommends that county officials be able to set pay rates for public defenders.

BEST4NY Hosts Mandate Relief Forum At Fox Lane

by Liz ButtonSchools10/03/12
Assembly minority leader Brian Kolb speaks as BEST4NY founder Jim McCauley looks on Tuesday night at Fox Lane Middle School     Photo Credit: Liz Button

BEDFORD, N.Y. — Westchester citizen advocacy group BEST4NY aims to mobilize local governments and their constituents to pressure Albany on the issue of unfunded state mandate relief, and it brought the fight to the Fox Lane campus Tuesday.

According to the group, while counties, towns, cities, villages and school districts are already facing tough budgetary pressures due to the state’s 2 percent property tax levy cap, unfunded mandates passed down from the state increase costs for local governments, forcing them to cut essential local services and inflate property taxes.

New York State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R,C,I – Canandaigua) said the lack of progress on mandate relief is not for a lack of solutions, such as two task forces assembled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and bills like the Taxpayer Relief Act. The stumbling block is legislators in Albany who do not have the political courage to fight for the legislation, he said.

“We’re still a long ways away from significant cost relief,” he said. The key to real change is getting the message out so taxpayers understand that this issue affects their pocketbooks, Kolb said.

While Albany insists that the tax cap and Tier 6 pension reform have saved money, BEST4NY, which stands for “Better Education and Smarter Taxation 4 New York,” posits that these do not result in relief for municipalities in the short term, which is needed.

State government is camouflaging its excessive spending by passing down mandates to counties, schools and towns, a move that ultimately hurts the taxpayers in these localities, said George Oros, chief of staff for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

“In Westchester, 82 cents of every dollar we collect in property tax goes to mandates in Albany,” he said.

Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster and Lisa Davis, executive director of Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association, also spoke at Tuesday’s public forum.

On the school level, Davis said, everyone wants to keep budget cuts as far away from the classroom as possible, but there has already been talk in some districts of dismantling pre-K, eliminating kindergarten and reducing funds for literacy programs.

“The end is not here because in 2012 we continue to see mandates being put on our school districts. And every mandate is well-served, it’s well intentioned, but they cost money,” she said.

Davis pointed to recent state mandates like the Dignity For All Act, the newly required cyberbullying policy that puts the burden of responsibility on the schools even if the incident happens remotely, and the largest unfunded mandate for schools: annual professional performance reviews (APPRs).

  • Brian Kolb & Bill Samuels…Counties map out Mandate Relief…Mark Ladov of the Brennan Center….CFR  Download
  • Counties want mandate relief. Know what they are? Watch Now

Unfunded mandates forum

10/02/2012 09:23 PM By: Erin Vannella

“Doing less with less” was part of the message for local and state leaders at a forum at the Rockefeller Institute of Government Public Policy in Albany.  The topic of discussion? Unfunded mandates and how they affect local governments.

ALBANY, N.Y. — “With the increase cost in state mandates exceeding the amount that we can raise in property taxes with the two percent tax, we’re having to cut local services,” said Rensselaer County Executive Republican Kathy Jimino.

Enough is enough say New York’s county leaders. They say unfunded state mandates are crippling local economies by requiring services that the government is not providing money to help pay for.

“We have had layoffs in each of the last three years and we’ve had program cuts,” said Jimino. “Last year, we had proposed some pretty draconian cuts in terms of senior services and in terms of veterans services.”

It’s a statewide problem that leaders on the local and state level discussed in open forum in Albany Tuesday. Cuomo’s cap on Medicaid costs and pension system reforms, many said, aren’t enough.

“I think what we’re looking for is to be more efficient and more flexible when it comes to rules and regulations and requirements that we put on local government and school districts,” said 43rd Senate District Republican Betty Little.

“I feel like our decision-making ability has been almost taken away from us and all we’re doing is implementing someone else’s priorities using local resources,” said New York State School Board Association Executive Director Timothy Kremer.

But while talking about it may bring some peace of mind, local leaders demand movement with everything from education to pension plans hanging in the balance.

“We need them to understand why it is that we continue to ask for relief from these mandates from the state and that we are at the same time finding those economies of scale at the local level trimming those costs, holding the line where we can,” said Jimino. “We recognize that the bottom line is our taxpayers cannot afford to pay more particularly when the economy remains rather bleak.”

For local governments, relief is spelled  ‘M-A-N-D-A-T-E’

11:38 PM, Oct 2, 2012   | Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
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ALBANY — The Cuomo administration on Tuesday defended its efforts to limit unfunded mandates on local governments, saying they have capped Medicaid costs and reformed the pension system.

But it wasn’t enough for local leaders and the state’s School Boards Association.

During a two-hour panel discussion Tuesday, local government officials said the state’s moves have been helpful, but more are needed.

“What we are seeing right now is governing by triage,” said Stephen Acquario, executive director for the state Association of Counties.

The state’s 57 counties outside New York City, as well as towns and smaller cities, are developing their budgets for the 2013 fiscal year, which starts January 1.

Local governments said they are being squeezed by revenues that aren’t keeping up with growing costs, particularly pension expenses for employees and state-mandated programs.

They said they are limited in how much they can raise taxes because of a property-tax cap implemented last year. It limits the growth in property taxes to 2 percent a year.

For counties, the tax cap will hold counties to raising $114 million in new tax revenue. Their expenses are set to grow by $244 million, Acquario said.

“It’s not what to cut. It’s when and how much,” Acquario said.

Acquario was joined on the panel by Cuomo’s budget director Robert Megna; Sen. Betty Little, R-Glens Falls; and Timothy Kremer, executive director of the state School Boards Association. It was sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which is part of SUNY Albany.

Megna said Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year agreed to have the state cap counties’ Medicaid costs at 3 percent a year. Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled, is the largest state mandate on counties.

The state also implemented a new pension tier, Tier VI, that is estimated to save the state more than $80 billion over the next 30 years. The new pension tier lowers benefits for new public employees.

“We believe significant mandate relief, in taking over those costs, will over time provide a substantial local benefit,” Megna said.

Upstate cities said they face bankruptcy without state help. Cities have lost population and manufacturing jobs, leading to an erosion of their tax base.

Megna said the state, despite its own fiscal woes and spending cuts, has been able to keep aid flat to cities. He said the Democratic governor is looking at ways to help cities.

“I think it’s premature to talk about any specifics,” Megna said.

Kremer said the state needs to reform the Triborough Amendment, the oft-criticized law that allows union contracts to continue even after they expire. The law, critics say, makes it difficult to negotiate new deals with unions; unions say it offers them job protection.

“We don’t want to dismiss anybody. We don’t want anybody to lose their job,” Kremer said. “But these contracts have expired and people are getting automatic step (salary) increases every year, on average 2 percent.”

Little said a mandate-relief panel formed by the Cuomo administration this year will hopefully find more ways to curb unfunded mandates.

“We have the tax cap, and the tax cap is bringing mandate relief to the fore,” she said.

$1.4 trillion in State Pension fights foreshadowed in RI, yes, but even a bigger problem in NY (the 2nd most indebted state in the nation)!

October 8, 2012

$1.4 trillion in state pension fights  foreshadowed in Rhode Island

Published October 07, 2012 Associated  Press

Retired social worker Jim Gillis was told his $36,000 Rhode Island state  pension would increase by $1,100 next year to keep up with inflation.

But lawmakers suspended annual increases, leaving Gillis wondering how he’ll  pay medical bills and whether he’d been betrayed by his former  employer.

“When you’re working, you’re told you’ll get certain things, and you retire  believing that to be the case,” Gillis said.

He and other retirees are challenging the pension changes in a court  battle that’s likely to have national implications as other states follow Rhode  Island’s lead.

Cities and states around the country are shoring up battered retirement plans  by reducing promised benefits to public workers and retirees. All told, states  need $1.4 trillion to fulfill their pension obligations. It’s a yawning chasm  that threatens to wreck government budgets and prompt tax hikes or deep cuts to  education and other programs.

The political and legal fights challenge the clout of public-sector unions  and test the venerable idea that while state jobs pay less than private-sector  employment, they come with the guarantee of early retirement and generous  benefits.

The actions taken by states vary. California limited its annual pension  payouts, while Kentucky raised retirement ages and suspended pension increases.  Illinois reduced benefits for new employees and cut back on automatic pension  increases. New Jersey last year increased employee retirement.

Nowhere have the changes been as sweeping as in Rhode Island, where  public sector unions are suing to block an overhaul passed last year. The law  raised retirement ages, suspended pension increases for years and created a new  benefit plan that combines traditional pensions with something like a 401(k)  account.

“This saved $4 billion for the people of Rhode Island over 20 years,” said  state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a Democrat who crafted the overhaul. “Rhode  Island is leading the way. I expect others to follow, frankly because they have  to.”

Public employee unions say Rhode Island is reneging on promises to  workers.

“What they did was illegal,” said Bob Walsh, executive director of the  National Education Association Rhode Island. “We’re deep into a real assault on  labor. It worries me that people who purport themselves as Democrats do  this.”

The court case foreshadows likely battles elsewhere as states grapple with  their own pension problems. In the past two years, 10 states suspended or cut  retiree pension increases; 13 states now offer hybrid retirement plants that  combine pensions with 401(k)-like plans.

“Forty-three states from 2009 to 2011 did something, but in many cases  something was not enough,” said David Draine, a researcher who tracks pension  changes at the Pew Center on the States.

States are discovering the political challenge of reining in pensions is only  one step in a battle ultimately won or lost in the courts.

A plan to enroll new Louisiana state workers in a 401(k)-like retirement plan  is being challenged by retirees. New Hampshire is defending a law that cuts  pension benefits and increases employee contributions.

California Gov. Jerry Brown last month approved higher retirement ages and  contribution rates for some state workers and a $132,000 cap on annual pension  payouts.

The state’s two main pension funds—the California Public Employees’  Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System—are  underfunded by $165 billion.

Brown said the changes may lead to bigger pension reforms in the future.  Unions are ready for a fight.

“Any additional pension reform they try to do will be met with serious  opposition,” said Dave Low, of Californians for Retirement Security, which  represents 1.5 million public workers. “Public employees have become the  whipping boy.”

Unions note that states have long neglected to contribute enough to pay for  promised benefits. In 2010, 17 states set aside no new money for pension  benefits. Kentucky hasn’t made its share of pension contributions since 2004. In  the past decade, Kansas and New Jersey haven’t paid their full shares a single  year, and Illinois has done so only once.

Steep pension fund investment losses made the situation far worse—a federal  report says state and local pension plans lost $672 billion during fiscal years  2008 and 2009. Longer-lived retirees, higher health care bills and pension  increases also drive costs.

In Rhode Island, 58 percent of retired teachers and 48 percent of state  retirees receive more in their pensions than in their final years of work.  Before Rhode Island’s reforms passed in November, its pension costs were set to  jump from $319 million in 2011 to $765 million in 2015 and $1.3 billion in 2028.  The state’s annual budget is $7 billion.

Passing the changes wasn’t easy. Public employees rallied at the Statehouse  and jeered lawmakers during floor debate. Firefighters lined the walls of  committee hearings.

Rep. Donna Walsh called the vote the “most heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching  vote” she’d cast in 12 years as a lawmaker.

One of the biggest changes involved putting off pension increases for five  years, and then only if pension investments perform well.

North Providence retiree Jamie Reilly left her job as a secretary at age 50,  thinking her 30 years of state employment would mean good benefits during her  later years. But now she said she may be forced to re-enter the workforce at age  55 because the state has put off pension increases.

“I counted on that money,” Reilly said of the increases, which she estimates  would have started at $700 to $1,000 a year. “I retired knowing I was going to  get a certain amount of money. You work all your life and you plan, and they  take it away from you.”

Cranston firefighter Dean Brockway said higher retirement ages mean he will  have to work several years longer than he expected, and he wonders how he’ll  climb stairs in heavy gear in his 60s. Brockway, who has nearly 30 years on the  job, said reducing benefits could make it harder to recruit public safety  employees.

“Could I do something else? I don’t know,” he said. “A lot of us chose to  dedicate our lives to public service because to us it’s an honor. Could I be a  carpenter? I don’t think so. This is what I do.”

State leaders, however, said they had no choice but to reduce benefits  taxpayers cannot afford. Otherwise cities might have gone bankrupt and current  workers would have no retirement security, Raimondo said.

“These problems won’t go away,” she said. “The longer you wait, the bigger  the problems get. People looking for easy, short-term solutions. … Well, there  are none.”

NY, the 2nd most indebted state in the nation!

$4 trillion in state debt, led by pensions

By Steve Malanga on September  7, 2012  2:33 PM

            State Budget Solutions has totaled up state debt, charting everything from unfunded pension liabilities to bond debt to borrowings by states to finance their unemployment trust funds. The total is a whopping $4.14 trillion. Pension debt, calculated using a market-valuation approach which assumes a lower rate of investment return than government pensions project, makes up more than half of state debt. Unfunded post-employment benefits, mostly health promises to retirees, adds another big chunk of debt, estimated at $627 billion. Below are the states with the greatest debt, and the amount of pension debt in each of those states.most indebted states.jpg

For local governments, relief is spelled  ‘M-A-N-D-A-T-E’ (and that includes relief from skyhigh pension costs)

11:38 PM, Oct 2, 2012   | Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
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ALBANY — The Cuomo administration on Tuesday defended its efforts to limit unfunded mandates on local governments, saying they have capped Medicaid costs and reformed the pension system. (but those limited reforms, which will only help in the future, do nothing as to the immediate problem)But it wasn’t enough for local leaders and the state’s School Boards Association. During a two-hour panel discussion Tuesday, local government officials said the state’s moves have been helpful, but more are needed.

“What we are seeing right now is governing by triage,” said Stephen Acquario, executive director for the state Association of Counties. The state’s 57 counties outside New York City, as well as towns and smaller cities, are developing their budgets for the 2013 fiscal year, which starts January 1.

Local governments said they are being squeezed by revenues that aren’t keeping up with growing costs, particularly pension expenses for employees and state-mandated programs…

10/02/2012 By: Erin Vannella YNN

“Doing less with less” was part of the message for local and state leaders at a forum at the Rockefeller Institute of Government Public Policy in Albany.  The topic of discussion? Unfunded mandates and how they affect local governments.    

ALBANY, N.Y. — “With the increase cost in state mandates exceeding the amount that we can raise in property taxes with the two percent tax, we’re having to cut local services,” said Rensselaer County Executive Republican Kathy Jimino.

Enough is enough say New York’s county leaders. They say unfunded state mandates are crippling local economies by requiring services that the government is not providing money to help pay for.

It’s a statewide problem that leaders on the local and state level discussed in open forum in Albany Tuesday. Cuomo’s cap on Medicaid costs and pension system reforms, many said, aren’t enough…

But while talking about it may bring some peace of mind, local leaders demand movement with everything from education to pension plans hanging in the balance…

Comptroller Releases 2012-13 Employer Pension Contribution Rates

Posted on August 29, 2011 by NYSAC

This week, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced the average local government employer pension contribution rate will rise from 16.3 percent to 18.9 percent of payroll for the general government Employee Retirement System (ERS), and for the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) will increase from 21.6 percent to 25.8 percent.

These new rates will be paid by counties in December of 2012 and they continue the recent trend of double digit cost increases related to pension contributions for counties…

[Look folks it’s this simple, NY’s public (funded) pensions are not doing well, are not fully funded for the future, but rather only for the current fiscal cycle, and this is how: The state has jacked up the municipal contribution rates, they like to call the employer contribution rates, and who is the employer? You, the taxpayer! They up the rates to the municpalities and in turn your municipalty has to tax you more, cut programs to make up money, or in most cases both! That’s it in a nutshell.]

{Oh and by the way, DiNapoli is a Union shill, they funded most of his campaign, and he has fought pension reforms at every turn!}

NY State Association of Counties 2012 Resolutions

PDF Full report, See pages 8, 31, 55 with respect to demands to mandate relief including the need for greater pensions reforms.

Senate Dems Raise Big From Labor, Pool Money

October 5, 2012

Senate Democrats this afternoon are reporting having raised tens of thousands of dollars from the alphabet soup of major unions and labor organizations including 32BJ, UFCW, AFL-CIO and DC 37. Their campaign filing also shows that much of the top line totals also came thanks to transfers in from incumbents and candidates running in competitive races. The…
[And you wonder why we can’t get reforms, this is largely why. The unions control the Dems and the Dems control the state. In the states like NY and CA who have the biggest problems with public pensions, the unions have huge power and control and they funnel all their money to the Dems to make it and keep it so (except for a throwing a few bones to a few select Reps to make it themselves look good, and those Rep’s are either unchallenged or RINO’s).]
[An additional reminder: NY has the highest ratio of public sector unionization in the country (while CA has the highest total number)]

Cuomo keeps ducking comprehensive mandate relief

September 20, 2012 E.J. McMahon

Asked what the state might do to help fiscally distressed upstate cities, Governor Cuomo today said his administration was “looking at various approaches to help cities more on an individual basis than on a collective basis.”

That would seem to indicate the governor will continue to avoid taking a position on comprehensive reforms favored by a broad cross-section of municipal officials, such as repeal or modification of the state law giving police and fire unions the option to seek binding arbitration of their contracts.  He can’t duck this question indefinitely, though, because the arbitration provision sunsets next June 30.  That means the law cannot be extended without his signature.

Other potential comprehensive mandate relief reforms ignored by the governor include repeal of the Triborough amendment and the establishment of a statewide floor under public employee contributions to health insurance plans, as was recommended four years ago by a local government efficiency commission headed by Mario Cuomo’s former lieutenant governor, Stan Lundine, whom no one would confuse with Scott Walker.

Since the state has no spare cash, any “individual” help Cuomo provides to local governments seems likely to be token or gimmicky, like the spin-up of AIM funds this year.

Should Congress be concerned about a pension bailout?

By Eileen Norcross on October  3, 2012 11:32 AM

Pensions & Investments considers this question, the recent proposal of Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and the state of Illinois’ pension system in its latest online edition.The article includes my thoughts on whether Congress is right to be concerned and what form a bailout might take as well as interviews with union officials who dismiss the notion…

  The IGM Forum Survey conducted by the University of Chicago asks professional academic economists to vote on topical economics subjects. One of this week’s questions: Do you think that public sector plans are using discount rates that are too high? The answer:
                                        was resoundingly, “yes.” Ninty-eight percent of the 39 economists surveyed agreed that public plans are using discount rates that are too high. More on the poll and the respondents which includes many notable economists can be found here.

Pension accounting changes don’t satisfy economists

By Zachary Janowski on June 25, 2012

More on New York’s troubled cities

September 25, 2012 E.J. McMahon
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has announced a “fiscal stress monitoring system” to provide an early warning of problems in local governments and school districts, which can only be a good idea. DiNapoli’s office also issued a report analyzing economic and fiscal trends in cities from 1980 to 2010.

A key finding:

The largest cost drivers for cities over the past 30 years have been personal service costs as well as health insurance and workers compensation. Pension costs have increased in recent years due to poor market conditions. Health care costs have risen significantly since the 1980s. Not surprisingly, given the economic backdrop for many cities, the above indicators show that many of New York’s cities, especially in upstate New York, are undergoing significant fiscal stress. In addition, some other cities with stronger economic bases are also experiencing problems, primarily as a result of poor management decisions, such as an over-reliance on non-recurring revenues, to balance budgets.

There some are interesting numbers in the report, including estimates of per-capita expenditure and personal income growth for cities during the 30-year period. Unfortunately, the total numbers may be somewhat distorted and comparisons hampered by the apparent inclusion of school budgets for the four cities in the sample (Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Yonkers) that have fiscally dependent school districts. Comparing those cities in isolation, Yonkers had the higher rate of per-capita spending growth, but Syracuse had the largest discrepancy between spending and income.

Source: Office of the State Comptroller

Source: Office of the State Comptroller

In other developments, Moody’s has assigned a “negative” outlook to its credit rating for Syracuse — a move that drew criticism from former Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch.

Meanwhile, as noted here last week, Governor Cuomo continues to distance himself from the situation, suggesting he favors “individual” assistance rather than a comprehensive approach to the fiscal problems of localities.

Public pension costs rising again

August 31, 2012 E.J. McMahon

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has marked the beginning of Labor Day weekend by announcing the next wave of increases in taxpayer-funded pension costs for local governments throughout the state (except New York City, which has separate systems).

Employer contribution rates will rise by 3.1 percentage points of salary for members of the state Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) and by 2.0 percentage points of salary for members of the Employee Retirement System (ERS) during 2013-14 fiscal rates, DiNapoli announced.   This brings the total contribution rates to 28.9 percent for PFRS and 20.9 percent for ERS employees.

(more…)

State pension fund tolls Q1 loss

August 17, 2012 E.J. McMahon

New York State’s Common Retirement Fund, which underwrites state and local pensions, returned a negative 0.92 percent on its assets during the quarter ending June 30, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli just announced.  That would translate into a loss of about $1.2 billion on an asset base of roughly $148 billion.

(more…)

The market and teacher pensions

July 5, 2012 E.J. McMahon

Recent trends on Wall Street indicate that public pension funds with fiscal years ending June 30 probably missed their rate-of-return targets for 2012.  I delve into one plan in particular — the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System — on the editorial blog at Newsday

Meanwhile, benefit payments have continued increasing at an average rate of 8 percent a year, more than doubling during the same period, according to NYSTRS’ annual financial reports.  And this, in a nutshell, is why school districts’ pension costs have risen so much, from an all-time low of 0.43 percent of teacher salaries in 2002 to 11.1 percent in 2012…

A glimmer of hope for renewed transparency

June 5, 2012 Tim Hoefer

Headed for the governor’s desk?

Reversing decades of precedent, all but one of the state’s public pension funds are now refusing to release the names of hundreds of thousands of retired employees who collect billions of dollars a year in taxpayer-guaranteed pensions.

The pension funds are citing a 2011 decision by the Appellate Division in Manhattan, which in turn upheld a lower court’s rejection of the Empire Center’s Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the names of retired New York City police officers for inclusion on the SeeThroughNY database. In a decision we’re fighting, the courts upheld the city Police Pension Fund’s claim that retirees themselves are entitled to the same confidentiality as their designated beneficiaries (usually surviving spouses).

But the Legislature may be riding to the rescue of the public’s right to know.

(more…)

Building a bigger iceberg?

April 17, 2012 E.J. McMahon

New York State, its local governments and its public authorities have promised their employees well over $200 billion in future retiree health benefits that no money is set aside to pay for, as we documented in our “Iceberg Ahead” report in late 2010.  This unfunded liability translates into an enormous and growing debt that current and past generations of taxpayers have pushed onto future generations.

Unlike pensions, retiree health benefits can be reshaped for current employees and retirees–so that massive cost could be immediately trimmed. Yet, as we detailed here last year, and as the Citizens Budget Commission notes on its blog today, state lawmakers since 2011 have introduced a half-dozen bills that would effectively freeze health insurance for some or all public retirees.  (Unfortunately, the same has already been done for school district employees.)

Governor Cuomo, at least, has pushed back against the trend–unilaterally imposing higher insurance co-pays on retired state employees, to make them more consistent with what is now required of active employees.  But his action is being challenged by state labor unions in federal court.

Another step on the trail of tiers

March 15, 2012 E.J. McMahon
So, what to make of this Tier 6 pension thing?  Is it truly “bold and transformational” ?

Uh, no. Suffice to say, Governor Cuomo’s hyperbole machine is in overdrive today…

Chicago’s school pension crisis, part 2

By Steve Malanga on September 20, 2012  4:23 PM

            Mary Walsh Williams has an excellent piece in the New York Times on Chicago’s teacher pension system crisis, which I discussed on PSIlast week. Worth reading, especially if you are one of those folks who doesn’t believe it’s news until it appears in the NY Times.

CHICAGO SCHOOLS REQUIRED PENSION CONTRIBUTIONS

PensionsChart1.jpg

So little real pension reform…

By Steve Malanga on September 12, 2012 12:00 PM

            Chicago’s schools face a growing pension burden, as I noted before, in part because the state of Illinois has refused to do meaningful pension reform. On Reaclearmarkets today I look at this problem around the country, as 40 states have proclaimed in the last two years that they have made changes to their pension systems that supposedly will save billions of dollars, yet unfunded liabilities keep rising. Why? Because most of the reforms are superficial in nature and don’t really attack the problem. One result is that payments by state and local governments into pension funds are soaring, as the chart below shows, and that’s straining budgets. pension contributions.jpg
            Continue reading So little real pension reform….

Fools errand (tell your legislators NO): Gun Microstamping and Democrat Ignorance Threatens Manufacturing Jobs, risks driving business out of state, and so on

October 8, 2012

Gun Microstamping: Democrat Ignorance Threatens Manufacturing Jobs

The expensive, useless technology may drive gun plants (and their jobs, and their taxes) out of New York and Connecticut.

October 5, 2012 – by Bob Owens Bio

Remington Arms has already moved much of their skilled operations and management to North Carolina because of the tax policies of New York state, and now it appears to be on the verge of moving the rest of its facilities, all due to microstamping legislation:

Microstamping, or ballistic imprinting, is a patented process that uses laser technology to engrave a tiny marking of the make, model, and serial number on the tip of a gun’s firing pin to allow an imprint of that information on spent cartridge cases. Supporters of the technology say it will be a “game changer,” allowing authorities to quickly identify the registered guns used in crimes. Opponents claim the process is costly, unreliable, and may ultimately impact the local economies that heavily depend on the gun industry, including Ilion, N.Y., where Remington Arms maintains a factory, and Hartford, Conn., where Colt’s manufacturing is headquartered.

“Mandatory microstamping would have an immediate impact of a loss of 50 jobs,” New York State Sen. James Seward, a Republican whose district includes Ilion, said, adding that Remington employs 1,100 workers in the town. “You’re talking about a company that has options in other states. Why should they be in a state that’s hostile to legal gun manufacturing? There could be serious negative economic impact with the passage of microstamping and other gun-control laws.”

Microstamping tooling is extremely expensive, prone to breakage, easily disabled, and ineffective on entire families of weapons…

Microstamping is not foolproof. Let’s look at the ways microstamping fails, beyond the numbers:

Easily thwarted and capable of being used to a criminal’s advantage, microstamping is a horrible idea as well as an expensive one.

Remington and Colt are right to threaten to leave New York and Connecticut if ignorant Democratic politicians push forward with their demands for microstamping legislation. As for Colt and Remington, I’d merely offer that North Carolina is a much more gun-friendly and intelligent state, and they would be more than welcome to relocate here.

Romney hands down, Won huge! Intelligent, informed, articulate, capable, competent, genuine, determined, presidential; Romney nailed it again and again and in every way

October 4, 2012

Romney 1, Obama 0

Knockout: Mitt Romney Crushes Barack Obama in First Presidential Debate

by Bryan Preston

Gov. Romney overmatched President Obama from start to finish.

Campaign Crawlers

Mitt’s Biggest Turnaround Yet

by Robert Stacy McCain

Romney wins the first debate so decisively, even liberals can’t deny it. (Read)

Political Hay

Romney’s Third Down Conversion

Matt  Purple 10.4.12

In which his debate performance was so strong that the author resorts to football clichés.

The Obama Watch

It’s A Drag

George  Neumayr 10.4.12

Obama performs lamely against an energetic and effective Romney.

October 3, 2012 — The Night Liberalism Died

by Roger L Simon

Liberalism will come back, of course, under one of a million names. But for now Mitt Romney has administered it a serious body blow.

Romney triumphs in first debate

Thomas Lifson @ americanthinker

The only question is how badly the Obama campaign will be demoralized.

Broken Barack

William L. Gensert @ americanthinker

Mitt Romney destroyed him in the first  debate.  As a political junkie, I have seen my share of debates; my  favorite was Reagan/Carter in 1980, which Reagan won handily. Yet,  this was an even more impressive victory for  Romney.

Romney’s Going to Win The Drive-By Pundit Obama’s the equivalent of a basketball player who has a “sweet spot” on the court where he’s virtually unstoppable. Obama’s “sweet spot” is in front of a teleprompter.  More

AP

Plenty Of Jabs in First Presidential Debate

Romney and Obama battle over claims about each other’s tax reform and job plans in opening presidential debate.

DEBATE TRANSCRIPT

Must watch, Pat Buchanan ‘On the Record’ catch a replay of her post debate interview with Pat Buchanan “Romney couldn’t have done any better”!

Powerful Post Debate Coverage! Tonight, 10:30p ET: Greta has smart political analysis, breaking down the BIG event! Then, Sean has REAL insight you won’t get ANYWHERE ELSE!

(Nancy Cordes covers the White House for CBS)

CBS News instapoll: 46% said Romney won. 22% said Obama won. 32% said tie. Decisive win for Romney.

Don’t Miss the Factor!

Tonight, 8 ET: A Presidential Debate Preview! Bill’s LIVE with expert political insight from Rove, Morris, Miller, Marshall and Powers!

Ahead of the Debate, Business Owners Favoring Romney After the Debate, Favoring Romney even more!

According to a recent poll, the Republicans and Romney go into the debate with the upper hand among entrepreneurs

(Video) Columnist labels Obama the ‘slacker-in-chief’

October 3, 2012 Deroy Murdock slams president’s priorities

October 3, 2012 Best Tweets of the night

UNDENIABLE:  ROMNEY 1, OBAMA 0:  Even the lamestream media Obama supporters acknowledge that it was an embarrassing loss for Obama.  And was it me, or did anyone else get the feeling that Obama felt constrained, unable to be himself?  Since his entire campaign has been about dividing Americans into rich vs. poor, white vs. non-white, religious vs. non-religious, etc., he seemed uncomfortable because his audience wasn’t his “base” but the entirety of the American people,  most of whom abhor this type of demographic warfare.  He couldn’t play the race card, the gender card, the class warfare card, etc.  And unfortunately, those seem to be the only cards in his deck. Without them, he’s just defensive and kind of sad.

Posted at 11:30 pm by Elizabeth Price Foley