To raise taxes, or not to raise taxes?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spoke during his budget address Tuesday about the push coming from many Democrats in the Assembly and Senate to raise the state’s top income tax, but this time he went into a bit more detail on an argument he’s been making for quite some time: It won’t raise much money.
The push to raise state income taxes strongly supported by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, would raise the state’s top rates on those who earn more than $1 million a year. Currently, it is at 8.82%. On Tuesday, Cuomo mentioned a prospective top rate of 10.86%.
Cuomo’s opposition to such increases has been twofold: that such an increase would give New York the highest state taxes in the nation, while only bringing in an extra $1.5 billion annually.
Both assertions may seem counterintuitive but they are not.
A single earner bringing in, say, $1.2 million, whose top rate jumped from 8.82% to 10.86%, would only pay an extra $4,080 annually. But such high earners typically file joint returns, meaning they’d need to earn $2 million to pay the new top rate, which fewer than 45% of these million-dollar earners do.
As for winning the mantle of which state takes the most from its high rollers, that calculation is not that straightforward. California has the highest state tax rate in the nation, which is 13.3% on all income earned over $1 million annually for single filers, $2 million for couples. In New York, the highest rate is applied to single earners making more than $1,077,550, and $2,155,350 for couples. So how would a top New York rate of 10.86% be higher than California’s 13.3%?
The 30,012 filers in New York City who made $1 million in 2018, the last year for which data is available, make up the lion’s share of such filers in the state, and they pay an additional 3.88% city income tax. If the state’s top rate increased to 10.86%, they’d pay a total of 14.74%. California’s cities can’t impose taxes on income.
What about, for instance, Long Islanders earning more than $1 million a year and paying no local income taxes? There, California’s big advantage over the Empire State is property taxes. California state law (remember Prop 13 in 1978?) prohibits property taxes above 1% of the value of a home. Offer the owner of a $1 million home on Long Island a $10,000 property-tax bill and they are likely to snap it up in an instant.
Cuomo’s competitiveness is legendary. But governor of the highest-tax state in the nation is one crown he’s fighting to avoid winning at all costs.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller
Two very special guests at MTA board meeting
A typical Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meeting can involve dozens of public speakers, often a parade of elected officials, riders and advocates.
Rarely does it include top federal public health officials — or children.
Thursday’s MTA meeting featured both.
"The New York City subway system is embedded in my brain," said guest speaker Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. "I took the subway every day from my home in Brooklyn to Regis High School in Manhattan."
In a pre-recorded message, Fauci even detailed the paths he took, first from his home in Bensonhurst, and then how he traveled once he moved to Dyker Heights. The BMT. The Sea Beach line. The IRT from 14th Street to 86th Street and Lexington Avenue.
Fauci, however, wasn’t making an appearance to complain about subway service or talk about fare hikes.
Instead, he had a message for MTA workers.
"Since I care about you all, I strongly encourage all MTA workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus," Fauci said. "The sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner we can get our lives back and our country back on track. You are essential workers at the front of the line. Take advantage of it. Get vaccinated. This may save your life."
Calling Fauci "the most trusted person in America," MTA Chairman Pat Foye said he had asked Fauci to record the message. The MTA plans to distribute Fauci’s comments to employees internally.
Just hours after Fauci appeared at the MTA meeting, he was at his first White House news conference with President Joe Biden about plans to improve vaccination supply and distribution, and fight the pandemic, and then later appeared at the White House press briefing, too.
Amazingly, though, Fauci wasn’t the star speaker at Thursday’s MTA meeting. That honor went to Lukas Wolpiuk, a middle school student from Centereach, who spoke during the public comments session at the start of the meeting.
He told the board he didn’t support the concept of flat fares for all LIRR rides regardless of distance and hoped bridge and tunnel toll hikes and not fare increases would help. The board had already decided to delay fare increases.
"I think they have made the right move. People will switch from driving to mass transit," he said.
Just before Wolpiuk’s time was up, he also asked for discounts for regular riders on the cost of a new LIRR parking garage in Westbury and suggested that the weekend closures on the LIRR’s Main Line should include more shuttle buses.
Even though the young Long Islander didn’t finish his comments in the allotted time, the MTA was listening.
"Highlight of my morning, I gotta find that kid," tweeted Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of New York City Transit.
Maybe Wolpiuk can help Fauci encourage MTA staff to get vaccinated, too.
—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
It isn't over yet...
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Teachers and tests
In the NewsdayLive webinar "Education & COVID-19: What do schools need now?", Smithtown East High School Principal Kevin Simmons says making sure he has enough teachers who aren’t in quarantine each school day is proving to be one of his fiercest challenges. And he says the difficulty is compounded by an intense shortage of substitute teachers.
A top challenge for Roosevelt school district Superintendent Deborah Wortham is helping her teachers keep the 38% of students who have opted into remote-only learning where they need to be educationally and emotionally when they have no in-person contact.
Jericho High School teacher Ron Verderber is innovating on the fly to teach musical skills remotely, and then turning to the battle to get his members vaccinated as president of the Jericho Teachers Association.
And Dr. Lauren Block must alternate teaching remotely in her role as an assistant professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell with safely caring for patients … and acting as a home-school teacher for her own children when their classes go remote.
Hear what these four passionate educators say about the current challenges and bright spots by watching the webinar on demand.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller