Updated 02/12/2009 10:40 PM
Council Speaker Proposes Tax Reform In State Of City Address
Council Speaker Christine Quinn proposed tax increases on wealthy New Yorkers and tax relief for low-income city residents in her State of the City address Thursday. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
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The city faces a $4 billion budget deficit. More than 50,000 jobs have been lost, and many employed New Yorkers are afraid they could be next.
It's against this backdrop that Council Speaker Christine Quinn went to bat for a host of new proposals she says will help the city stay strong.
"We may be in the worst fiscal crisis in decades, but New Yorkers know better than anyone that no crisis has ever stopped our city from moving forward," said Quinn.
Among some of the ideas, help for small businesses by waiving permit and licensing fees for one year, and allowing those who owe the city millions in unpaid fines to forgo late payments -- so long as they've fixed the problem.
Quinn also announced a plan to convert vacant condominiums into affordable housing and says she wants to lure the biotech industry to New York through a proposed tax credit.
"I have to apologize to the nice folks in San Diego and Boston, because we're going to start stealing those jobs, and bringing them back to New York," said Quinn.
On the public safety front, Quinn called for stiffer penalties for those who commit a crime as part of a gang initiation.
In the chambers, the speech was well-received overall. But Quinn's proposal to raise taxes on New York families earning more than $300,000 a year was met with some criticism.
Council Minority Leader James Oddo says he might consider supporting it if the tax hike was tied directly to budget cuts.
"You can't get out of this problem by simply taxing rich people. You have to, for the long term, reduce city spending," said Oddo.
Others said Quinn's speech didn't convey the severity of the economic crisis bearing down the city.
"There was no talk about let's look at reform and pensions, our capital programs, and how are we going to address these big picture items, the Medicaid problem. That was disappointing," said Kathryn Wylde, Partnership for New York City.
The tax plan also includes a cut for low-income New Yorkers and is expected to win support from council members, many of whom balked at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's call last month to raise the sales tax.
Either change to the tax code would have to be approved by lawmakers in Albany, which could spark another political battle.