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Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Bush Plan Doesn't Add Up

There he goes again.

Last week, President George W. Bush announced the details of his new plan for restoring economic prosperity, the premise of which should be all too familiar by now: hundreds of billions of dollars in giveaways for the wealthiest of America's taxpayers.

Meanwhile, most city and county governments around the country are drowning in red ink and reaching for service cuts and property tax increases as their only available life preservers, just as the mayor and the City Council were forced to do here last year.

The Bucks Start Where?
Who is going to solve New York's fiscal crisis ­ Washington, Albany, or the city itself?
Transcript of President George W. Bush's Economic Proposal
Governor George Pataki's State of the State Address
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's remarks at the Citizens Budget Commission
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller's Reaction to the Bush Proposal

If President Bush is really interested in keeping our taxes low and the streets of our communities safe, then what he should have proposed was a federal revenue sharing program that offers aid directly to local governments.

Federal revenue sharing means that Washington D.C. would establish a large pot of federal dollars that could be distributed to cities and counties on the basis of population. In exchange, these local governments would agree touse the funds for budget-deficit relief and to hold the line on property tax rates.

By helping local governments balance their budgets, Washington D.C. would also be preventing drastic reductions to the vital services provided by our police officers, fire fighters and sanitation workers.

By helping local governments maintain these services without resorting to property tax hikes, Washington would also be shielding our recovering economy from the deflationary effects of new taxes.

Compare the benefits of such a program with the Bush administration's current plan to direct so much tax relief to America's wealthiest one percent ­ relief that would be put to better use by keeping cops on our streets and property tax rates stable.

A real $80 billion federal revenue sharing program would help cash-strapped localities from Seattle to Schenectady and its benefits to New York City would be substantial. The average city homeowner could see his or her property taxes fall by $207, while the average co-op owner could see a reduction of $307. Revenue sharing would also provide more than $1 billion in budget deficit relief, thus allowing the City Council and the mayor to spare vital services like police, fire, and sanitation from some of the more dreadful cuts that now seem unavoidable.

What Americans ­ and New Yorkers especially ­ need is responsible leadership from Washington ­ not a cynical shell game. To stimulate the economy, the president should stop offering endless tax giveaways for the few while forcing local governments to raise taxes for the many.

During periods of recession, it becomes even more important for local governments like ours to provide the services that make our communities livable and safe. We need every resource we can get to keep fighting crime,to address homelessness, and to maintain the quality of life.

President Bush could have announced a different plan last Tuesday, a plan to help local governments and homeowners across the nation. Instead, he gave us more of the same.



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