Albany Democrats propose an absolutely ridiculous budget

POLITICS: Albany Democrats propose an absolutely ridiculous budget



In their annual one-house budget resolutions, Democratic majorities in the state Assembly and Senate laid out their negotiating position for this year’s budget deal with Gov. Hochul.

They’ve decided to spend more — $13 billion more than the governor’s already-record $233 billion executive budget.

And tax high earners and corporations more too, despite Hochul’s opposition. 

What would New Yorkers get for lawmakers’ nearly quarter-trillion dollars in state spending? 

Start with illegal pot shops. The cannabis industry spent years and millions of dollars lobbying New York’s leaders in the leadup to legalization.

A regulated and taxed market was supposed to bring an economic boon

Instead, it’s paved the way for the proliferation of thousands of cash-based unlicensed shops that aren’t buying from New York’s regulated growers or paying cannabis fees and taxes.

And they are proving nearly impossible to shut down. City Councilmember Gail Brewer spent more than a year trying to close one a block from her district office, and when the doors finally closed it wasn’t for selling illegal pot but for untaxed tobacco products.

Yet the Assembly has more interest in using taxpayers to prop up the legal marijuana market than shutting down the illegal one. 

It removed the governor’s proposal to give the state’s Office of Cannabis Management greater authority to issue padlock orders to help local authorities shutter unlicensed stores. 

Instead, it’s proposing $80 million to assist lawful cultivators and processors who “experienced a substantial financial hardship.”

The Senate, though more supportive of the governor’s enforcement plan, is calling for $128 million to aid marijuana farmers.

So instead of a boon, taxpayers are going to pay to subsidize marijuana.

Next up: the environment. The Senate’s resolution revives a bill to collect $75 billion over 25 years from large companies “engaged in the trade or business of extracting fossil fuel or refining crude oil” between 2000 and 2018.

The proceeds of this “climate change superfund” would benefit green infrastructure projects.

This effective tax will raise fuel prices, cutting squarely against lawmakers’ pledge to “boost affordability and prosperity for working-class New Yorkers.” 

The Senate’s proposal isn’t going after fossil-fuel companies for accidents or illegal dumping; it’s going after New York businesses that participated in legal activities decades ago that have fallen out of favor with today’s powers-that-be.

Lawmakers could have taxed fossil fuels or emissions more between 2000 and 2018, but they opted not to.

Taxing this activity retroactively will make New York a more uncertain and less appealing state to do business.

Finally, housing. The city’s 1.4% rental vacancy rate is the lowest since 1968. New multifamily foundation applications plummeted last year to under 10,000, around 50% of average production over the last two decades. 

The governor and mayor agree that a new property-tax incentive on large multifamily developments is necessary for more housing supply.

But left-wing senators are — like last year — conditioning their support on “good cause eviction,” which would basically extend rent stabilization to almost all currently unregulated housing statewide.

Rent controls don’t address the biggest problem in the downstate housing market: Too few new homes are being built relative to demand.

While both houses proposed funding for more vouchers and subsidized affordable-housing developments, public dollars can’t come close to meeting the supply challenge without private investment.

A better policy would permanently authorize New York City to develop a rental property-tax incentive program.

With proposed solutions like these, the problems in New York aren’t likely to be fixed.

John Ketcham is director of cities at the Manhattan Institute.



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