Pataki's Class Bias

Guv Seeks Sacrifice From Average New Yorkers, Protects High-End Friends

It doesn't matter that state income taxes, but not sales taxes, are deductible on federal returns, meaning that more than a third of any state PIT hike would be compensated for by lower federal tax payments. It doesn't matter that New York State has cut its top personal tax rate by more than 50 percent over the last 25 years, going from the third highest rate to 19th out of the 42 states with income taxes. Nor does it matter that New York has the widest income disparity in America, getting wider by the minute, and that a Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, recently found that a high-income targeted PIT hike was the least damaging mechanism for balancing state budgets during recessions.

Pataki is oblivious to the fact that high-income taxpayers hit by a New York surcharge would still not be paying more in total taxes because they'd be benefiting from the disproportionate Bush tax cut at the same time. He's also oblivious to the 14 percent of New York income taxes that are paid by nonresidents, or the recent actions of Connecticut GOP governor John Rowland, who proposed a surcharge on millionaires and wound up closing half his budget gap with new taxes. He doesn't even care that 71 percent of New Yorkers polled by Quinnipiac favored resolving the budget crisis with "temporary tax increases on the wealthy."

What does matter to the governor, according to every armchair observer of him in Albany, is his Washington fantasy. He imagines himself as president one day, getting there perhaps as Homeland Security successor to Tom Ridge, another Northeast Republican governor, in a second Bush term. To secure a prominent place in Bush's worldview, or even just within the national party, he must lead this anti-income-tax crusade and burnish his Murdoch credentials, just as he recently led a ground zero pro-war rally. He may even fight the closing of corporate tax loopholes agreed to by the senate and assembly, though New York, Louisiana, and Kentucky are the only states that have all three of the classic and costly loopholes identified in a recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

He told the ground zero rally that the Iraq war "started right here," a blood lie more fraudulent than his campaign's fiscal cover-up. His MTA, according to State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, deliberately fudged its finances to postpone a fare increase until after his re-election. And now, in what he says is the worst economic crisis in New York since the Great Depression, his "job-killing tax" rhetoric has become his cruelest deception, safeguarding selfishness even at the expense of lives just begun.

Research assistance: Cathy Bussewitz, Alexa Hinton, Felicia Mello, and Solana Pyne

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