An Upbeat Speech
February 12th, 2009
With less drama and fanfare (sans marching band too) than the administration, Council Speaker Christine Quinn delivered her state of the city address this afternoon in City Hall’s council chambers.
A little over 48 minutes, the address focused on getting the city through tough times with surprising optimism (at least more than the mayor). Crucial to it was the speaker’s proposal to revise the city’s income tax brackets, provide relief to small businesses and convert empty condos to affordable housing.
Her largest proposal, which was actually released yesterday, is doing away with the personal income tax for low-income New Yorkers (those with household incomes less than $46,000) and creating new tax brackets for those that earn the most in the city. Similar to proposals floating in the abyss of Albany, Quinn suggested increasing the tax on those that make nearly $300,000 a year to 4.25 percent, upping the tax to 4.45 percent for those making between $532,000 and $1.2 million, and boosting the tax to 4.65 percent on those with incomes above that.
At the same time, the speaker seemed to rule out the possibility of a sales tax increase, which the mayor has proposed to solve the fiscal crisis.
“If we want to encourage New Yorkers to shop locally, we simply can’t afford to raise the sales tax,” she said. “We’re simply not going to balance the budget by squeezing local merchants and shoppers.”
Since the mayor suggested increasing the sales tax in his January preliminary budget, council members have railed against the proposal, calling it regressive. Aligning with her members, the speaker is alluding to council solidarity on the issue.
Though both a revision of the personal income tax brackets and an increase in the sales tax would need approval from Albany, they also both need approval from the City Council in the form of a home rule message. Meaning, if there is any iota of a chance for Bloomberg to get his sales tax through, he is going to have to wheel and deal with Quinn.
Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler reiterated that process following the address, saying that any proposal would need the approval of the council, the State Legislature and the governor. “That process is not really forgotten,” said Skyler. “We put in the sales tax proposal, she obviously put something else forward, and we’ll be negotiating that with her and her staff.”
“As far as what will happen,” he added, “I’ll have a good answer for you July 1st.”
(That’s when the budget must be approved.)By Courtney Gross on February 12, 2009, 2:47 pm
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