Monday, March 30, 2009

The NY State Budget Is Bestowed Upon Us

The budget is officially out and the clock is ticking until the state legislature can approve it. It comes with plenty of criticism, plenty of perks and the made with the usual amount of shrouds, cloaks and general darkness. The Gotham Gazette wonders if people will care as long as the budget gets done. Of course, it wasn't done with the blessings of good government groups and probably meant that way so that the budget could be more easily made even bigger than it was supposed to be.

For the sake of New York, this turns out to be a deal:

The agreement attempts to close the state's estimated $17.7 billion budget deficit through roughly $6.2 billion in federal stimulus spending, $5.2 billion in cuts to an array of programs, and $6.3 billion in new revenue — including an increase in the personal income tax on affluent New Yorkers.

The personal income tax hike would create two new tax brackets — 7.85 percent for single or married-filing-separately taxpayers making more than $200,000, head-of-household filers making more than $250,000 and married couples with incomes greater than $300,000.

For all taxpayers making more than $500,000 — regardless of filing status — the rate would rise to 8.97 percent.

Currently, New York's highest tax rate is 6.85 percent, a rate that kicks in for single or married-filing-separately filers making more than $20,000, head-of-household filers making more than $30,000, and couples and joint filers making more than $40,000.

So the system is still broken, but the people did not lose out completely. Making the state income tax more progressive is a victory for those of us outside the elite class. It took a tremendous effort to put that Fair Share plan on the board but it should show New Yorkers one thing, if we put enough pressure on our leaders, they will act in our favor. Whether that takes displays of social protest or booting politicians from office, change can happen. Like in this instance, change is generally slow in coming, but persistence can transform society if we make it so. Sometimes though, we do need instrumental change, but it has to be brought about with a sustained push so that the powerful give way to the rest of us. The scenario that I present is something that has been done several times in our history as a state, that is, call a Constitutional Convention. When that happens, the sky is the limit on how open we want Albany to be.