New York is in dire straits when it comes to the yawning budget deficit. Not only have years of rampant spending in Albany caught up with us, but the stateís revenues have also taken a crippling blow. Apparently all of those Wall Street bonuses, (you know, the ones they wonít be getting?) made up a significant chunk of the Empire Stateís income.
Now we are looking at a $15 billion deficit, give or take. Itís no wonder Governor Paterson has chosen to bring his budget proposal to the table early. Everyone knew it was going to get ugly.
All eyes were on Albany Wednesday for the unveiling of the governorís plan. It was even worse than I expected. In this time of economic crisis, the plan seems destined to send us further into recession rather than help us bounce back.
New York consistently ranks as one of the most heavily taxed of the 50 states. Yet in addition to the wholesale slashing of services ($9.5 billion from education, health care, economic development and all that good stuff), Paterson has proposed a total of 137 new and increased taxes.
Tell me, just how is taxing sugary beverages, hair cuts, movie tickets, cab rides and music downloads going to balance the budget? And these are just a few of his suggestions.
New York has the highest gas prices in the continental U.S., but that isnít stopping the governor from suggesting we eliminate the cap on the stateís gas tax.
Paterson also wants to reinstate sales tax on clothing and shoes under $110, except for two weeks a year. This would reverse previous efforts to keep shoppers in New York rather than make pilgrimages to shopping centers and outlets in neighboring states like New Jersey.
The governor is also taking aim at the sale of cigarettes on reservations, seeking to circumvent federal regulations by taxing tobacco being sold to the Native American reservations. He also wants to cut in on their gambling action, by allowing video slot machines in some locations.
Heís already come under fire for some of these suggestions, especially the proposed 18 percent ďobesity taxĒ on non-diet soft drinks. The beverage giants have already gotten out their big guns, lawyers and lobbyists, to fight the battle on that front.
Paterson also wants to double taxes on alcoholic beverage, but at the same time making them more readily available. One of his proposals is to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores. Do you think he anticipates people turning to drink as a way of making all of these taxes more palatable?
And did I mention that, while New Yorkers will be making these sacrifices to help the state make ends meet, Patersonís budget plan actually increases state spending by 1.1 percent?
The governor has also taken aim at the stateís pheasant farm. He believes he can save in the neighborhood of $750,000 by closing the facility. Because the birds have had their wings clipped, they canít be released into the wild so the vast majority will be slaughtered. Once processed, they will be sent to food banks in the Southern Tier.
Those food pantries will have more of a need than ever, because they will no doubt see an increase in demand after all of the cuts are made, taxes are levied and our economy continues to worsen.
These wholesale cuts and increased taxation will drive our state further down the trough of recession into full blown depression.
But we have Governor Patersonís answer: Let them eat pheasant. How very Marie-Antoinnette of him.