Gov’s ‘Fair Tax’ Bomb Hits Albany
Faced with ever rising deficits this year and next, the governor decided to drop his no new taxes pledge in favor of raising taxes for the wealthy while reducing them for middle and low income New Yorkers.
Also in the mix to try to revive the state’s economy and create jobs and spur business growth, the governor would seek:
•To broadly expand the creation of major casinos in the state and to create jobs while capturing gambling cash that’s going to other states.
•Create a youth job training and placement program by giving tax credits to participating businesses.
•Start rebuilding the state’s infrastructure and creating other jobs while helping to revive the economy.
Conspicuously absent from the governor’s plan, which was unveiled to reporters in Albany on Sunday, is any mention of opening up the upstate area of the state to the natural gas industry, which would help create an estimated 40,000 jobs.
But the omission could be explained by the very strong opposition which has developed against the natural gas initiative because of its controversial mining process, called hydrofracking, which could pose a major threat to drinking water sources in the state, including New York City’s huge reservoirs in the Adirondacks.
Hearings on the proposed approval or disapproval of clearing the way for the natural gas industry and hydrofracking to come into the state are nearing conclusion and there was a real expectation that the governor would find a way to make it happen because of the great economic benefits it could bring to the state.
But the strong opposition which developed at the hearings may have doused the governor’s ardor for the planned economic rebirth of the northern part of the state because of the threat and opposition to hydrofracking. Perhaps the governor himself was convinced that hydrofracking was indeed a real enough threat that it didn’t make sense to embrace the benefits that could come with natural gas mining.
Or maybe the governor has decided to go at full throttle with the economic and jobs plan he unveiled on December 4 and he’s decided to lay aside the natural gas development for the moment and revive it sometime in the future.
Getting back to today’s possible start of a special session to get started on the governor’s new plan, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had made no comment on it as of yesterday, but he’s been calling for extension of the so-called “millionaire’s tax, and the governor’s new tax proposal would have the same effect.
At the same time, Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos said it sounded interesting, especially if it provides a chance to kill an MTA tax that Republicans on Long Island hate. There might also be a chance to change the governor’s mind about the real estate tax cap he rammed through earlier in the session. The tax cap was strongly opposed by school officials and teachers in upstate and Long Island GOP areas, so maybe Skelos can work out a deal to get the tax cap reversed.
There’s no indication as yet how wealthy New Yorkers feel about suddenly facing a tax increase when, for the entire year, Cuomo has reassured there would neither be an extension of the millionaire’s tax nor a tax increase for them that would be created under a new name.
But with Cuomo under the gun, facing a $350 million shortfall in the 2011 budget and a projected deficit of $3.5 billion staring him in the face for next year, there had to be a surprise new plan coming out of the governor’s mansion to finally get some movement in the state. Before you know it, all that excitement about pension reform will be forgotten and the good old days will be back again.
LIU PROTESTS ATTACKS ON VOTING RIGHTS: This Saturday, December 10, City Comptroller John Liu will join a coalition of civil rights leaders to protest the erosion of voting rights in some states. The protests will mark the celebration of UN Human Rights Day, the highlight of which will be the Stand for Freedom march and rally.
Liu stated, “At a time when our nation faces profound issues, we should be enhancing voting rights and participation. Instead, it is simply shocking how voter suppression measures have only intensified. Worse yet, this coordinated attack on voting rights seems well-oiled by New York’s wealthiest.”
Protesters will single out what Liu called two of “the leading voter suppression funders”, the wealthy Koch brothers, by starting the Stand for Freedom march at 61st Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, where the Koch headquarters are located. The march will later conclude across the street from the United Nations at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 47th Street and Second Avenue.
Explaining the attacks on voting rights, Liu said that in many states, new rules are creating “a modern day poll tax by requiring voters to obtain and present official photo ID in order to cast a ballot”. By this and other requirements, voters could possibly [be] discouraged from voting.
“The political landscape across the country has been altered dramatically in recent years, threatening to bring back the specters of government sanctioned discrimination and second-class citizenship,” Liu declared.
ADDABBO REPEATS OPPOSITION TO HYDROFRACKING: State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) issued another attack against the controversial hydrofracking method to drill for natural gas in New York state, asserting he is not opposed to other processes of drilling, and repeating his concerns that hydrofracking would contaminate our drinking water.
The lawmaker’s statement was prepared for submission to the hearings being held by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Addabbo stated, he did not want any of the 31 chemicals he named explicitly, “or any other foreign items found in hydrofracking anywhere near our state’s water supply”.
Addabbo’s new assault against the controversial drilling method comes as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is near the completion of public hearings on the drilling issue.
Following the hearings, Cuomo has said, he will announce whether his administration will proceed with plans which would authorize use of hydrofracking— and the extent of it—in order to spur economic and job creating activity to help the state deal with major budget deficits.
The possible widespread use of the controversial mining method has created a huge debate between the natural gas industry and those seeking jobs and economic improvement on the one hand and environmental advocates predicting calamitous dangers to the state’s drinking water reservoirs which are located in the Adirondack watershed where the drilling is proposed to proceed at full blast.
Citing the dangers to the state’s and city’s daily supply of 15 billion gallons of water, as well as its “lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries and ground water”, the Queens senator points to our neighboring states where the hydrofracking has been shown to be flawed.
Those neighboring states, he says, can also show us the way to “alternative environmentally sound drilling techniques”, but he didn’t go any further.
Addabbo also touches upon federal studies that have “indicated consumed radioactive waste, whether by drinking or eating, can cause cancer and other health problems”.
The lawmaker adds that he has introduced legislation requiring that “radioactivity in drilling waste would need to be treated before being accepted or discharged by any permit holder”.
Another concern of Addabbo is that the state’s facilities for treating contaminated water presently are not equipped “to remove such carcinogens from the chemicals contained within hydrofracking fluids”.
Addabbo states bluntly, “Our state cannot seek to create upstate jobs, but at the same time create a long-term, harmful condition for people throughout the state.” He also urges the governor to proceed with caution on this issue.
BEG PARDON: In last weeks’s column, we erred in saying state Senator Addabbo’s district includes the Rockaways. It does not.
TURNER: ‘ROCKAWAY BEACH PO TO REMAIN OPEN’: Congressmember Bob Turner (R–C–Queens/Brooklyn) announced last week that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has decided not to close the Rockaway Beach post office branch at 90-14 Rockaway Beach Blvd.
Turner stated: “I commend District Manager Frank Calabrese and the rest of USPS management for making a wise choice, one that will keep people in our community at work.”
Turner also said, “My office has received numerous phone calls and letters from constituents informing me of the adverse impact this branch closing would have caused. The United States Postal Service has made the right decision in this case.”
Calabrese explained that his office gives a full and fair viewing to the entire package when a branch office is being considered for closing. He said their review had shown that closing the station…“ was not an appropriate postal decision at this time”.
Last week, following a report that job figures showed improvement, Turner issued a statement stating, “Today we received yet another report that the current approach to the economy was not working. Our nation’s unemployment numbers have remained above eight percent for almost three years and we can no longer afford to stay the course.”
However, an Associated Press report noted that the unemployment rate, which was stuck at nine percent for more than two and a half years, had finally dropped to 8.6 percent and payrolls had grown by 100,000 for the fifth straight month.
Turner responded to part of the report in the AP story that said the unemployment rate was dropping because “about 300,000 people simply gave up looking for work”.
The lawmaker stated, “A decline in unemployment due in part to discouraged Americans giving up on looking for a job is not a victory. We need to put policies in place that will create opportunities for the unemployed.”
Locally, Turner announced he has opened a new district office at 82-20A Eliot Ave., Middle Village (phone 718- 426-5000). His office was previously at 80-02 Kew Gardens Rd., Kew Gardens.
LIZ CROWLEY WANTS PRIOR NOTICE BEFORE PARKING CHANGES: Residents should receive notice of at least seven days before the Department of Transportation installs “no standing” signs on residential streets, according to legislation introduced by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D–Glendale).
Residents are often caught by surprise when the DOT plans to post new parking restrictions, Crowley complained. A change in parking in a location that was perfectly legal a day ago, she said, can suddenly lead to increased costs from a ticket or towing expenses and unneeded aggravation.
Crowley stated: “The ticketing and towing of vehicles immediately after a new ‘no standing’ sign is installed is an unfair practice by the city. Local communities should receive proper notification before parking policy changes.”
‘REAP HEAT HEAP HELP AT BORO HALL,” SAYS MARSHALL: At a time when pre-winter weather has been balmy, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall put out a reminder last week that applications for winter heating help are available at Queens Borough Hall.
Marshall said applications for the federal Home Energy Assistance Program, better known as HEAP, are available in Room 225 until March 16, Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. at Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Kew Gardens.
HEAP provides qualified low-income households with assistance to pay heating bills and to make needed repairs, Marshall said, noting the program gives up to $450 for regular or emergency benefits and up to $3,000 for equipment repairs or replacement.
Applicants must show documentation that includes utility bills and/or property tax bills, a birth certificate, proof of a Social Security number for each household member, proof of children in the household under age six or adults over 60, or anyone with a permanent disability, proof of income (pay stubs for four weeks, rental income receipt, pension check or other verification means.
For information, call 1-800-342-3009, or go to www.mybenefits.ny.gov; or call Marshall’s office at 718-286-2650, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
POLS BLAST NYCHA: At a press conference in front of the Pomonok Senior Center in Flushing on December 5, state Senator Toby Stavisky, Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz and Councilmembers James Gennaro and Karen Koslowitz called on the city Housing Authority to stop the inhumane practice of strong arming elderly residents of Pomonok Housing into downsizing into a smaller apartment.
The lawmakers, all Democrats, were joined by local community leaders and some of the affected seniors who have received threatening letters from the NYCHA demanding them to downsize or be faced with dire consequences.
The public officials’ statement added that the NYCHA policy has never been implemented properly…and it is unfair to enforce it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.
The officials described the tenants as “life-long residents (who) pay their rent on time, and built Pomonok into the crown jewel of the NYCHA system.
Rather than pressure these senior citizens, NYCHA should concentrate on ridding the development of the criminal element that is the real threat to this community.
DROMM DEMANDS MORE COPS: Faced with another shooting on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, Councilmember Daniel Dromm has demanded additional police protection and constructive police outreach to our immigrant communities.
Dromm’s outcry was occasioned by another shooting last Friday on Roosevelt Avenue where an atmosphere of lawlessness and urban breakdown has taken hold. He said the physical environment on Roosevelt Avenue between 69th and 114th Streets is the focal point of the lawless behavior.
Besides asking for additional cops, Dromm also called on the MTA to provide additional lighting under the elevated transit line and a new paint job on the el, which hasn’t been painted in more than 30 years, he charged.
Also needed are sufficient sanitation services, street vendor regulation and economic development in the area.
PERALTA LEADS QUALITY OF LIFE TALKS: State Senator Jose Peralta (D–Corona) is hosting a discussion between seven city agencies and Community Boards No. 3 and 4 tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Louis Armstrong Middle School (I.S. 227), 32- 02 Junction Blvd., East Elmhurst.
The subject will be quality of life issues in Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, which are all in Peralta’s district.
Attending will be the city Departments of Buildings, Consumer Affairs, Health & Mental Hygiene, Transportation, Police, Sanitation and the Taxi and Limousine Commission.