Liveblogging Quinn’s State of the City: Cuts, Tax the Rich, Not Sales


At her upcoming State of the City speech, which she is expected to bellow at any moment, Council Speaker Christine Quinn is expected to propose an income tax hike on richer New Yorkers, says Liz Benjamin. Citizens making between $297,000 and $532,000 would see their rate rise from 3.683 percent to 4.25 percent; those making $532,000 to $1.2 million would go to 4.45 percent, and those earning $1.2 million and above will go to 4.65 percent. The idea is to raise $1 billion and obviate a planned sales tax to meet New York’s $4 billion budget deficit.

The speaker’s father is on now, talking about the bad old days of the Depression, and how his parents had allowed an unemployed trolley conductor and his wife to live in their basement till he could get a job as a doorman. “I’ve told this tale and many tales like it to your Speaker,” he said, and hoped she would take its example “to be as bold and as charitable as your grandparents,” albeit with other people’s money. Quinn just introduced a bunch of local pols and civic leaders who are at the event, including, “though this will hurt my father, my rabbi”; Hiram Monserrate got the quietest round of applause.

Quinn is now talking about the thousands of New Yorkers, “many dressed in their Sunday best,” who gathered outside City Hall to celebrate Obama’s inauguration, and how “no crisis has ever stopped us,” and how we’re going to need “every ounce of that strength” to get through the recession. Now she’s talking about Mom and Pop businesses that we all love, and nowadays often see replaced “by a bank chain” or a vacant storefront.

She’s going to cut licensing fees, coordinate inspection visits so they all happen on the same day… and no sales tax. And “a temporary amnesty in unpaid fines” for small business, so some of the millions of dollars owed will come in. Her new small biz plan will be called “Open for Business.”

She says high-tech and biotech jobs are going to Boston and San Diego and, with apologies to those fine people, “We’re gonna start stealing those jobs back” with a biotech tax credit. She says this will create a thousand new high-end jobs.

Nursing gets a boost, too: she says nursing jobs are “lying vacant” becaue CUNY has to turn away applicant because they don’t have enough nursing professors. “It’s a simple matter of sharing resources,” so New York will recruit real nurses to serve as “guest faculty” at CUNY. Ten new teachers = 500 new nurses, and “500 new jobs.”

We’re also known, “as my father would say, for havin’ the best eats.” Food manufacturers like Amy’s Bread and Wonton Food and doin’ great. We want to make others as successful, so we’re going to “develop a brand new cooperative workspace… a collective kitchen” that will charge “a small fee” and turn “caviar dreams into caviar realities.” (When no one laughs, she chides, “It’s a joke, folks. Apparently no one here watched ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.'”

We have to end the “honor system of corporate welfare,” and “take money back from companies that aren’t keeping their promises or meeting our priorities.” So we’re going to look at the tax credits we’re giving them. She mentions NYSE, which gets tax credits for job creation but actually cut jobs drastically last year.

“We have to drastically cut back on non-essential spending… Police cars may be a little older, and a little more beat up, but we can make do.” And homeowners will have to “leave their grass cuttings on the lawn.” That’ll save $2 million dollars. Also, we’ll merge payroll and pension systems, which “saves tens of millions of dollars.”

12:50 p.m. “We’ve raised property taxes on homeowners,” and now “we need the city’s labor unions to pitch in.”

“Websites end with dot this, dot that.” But now we’re gonna have “dot nyc”!

“Mark Twain famously advised, buy land, they’re not making any more of it. Well, now we can make more of it” — online. She envisions “” And she expects to generate millions by the sale of these addresses. She gets the crowd to say “dot nyc” with her.

“Access to affordable housing” is a problem. She mentions “Northern Exposure,” grumbles that the crowd doesn’t know that show either, then explains that we will bring “tens of millions of dollars and dozens of new doctors, complete with their own moose” with a new housing scheme for medical personnel.

Now we’re going to talk about “how we’re raising revenue.” She’s outraged that “Berie Madoff pays the exact same tax rate as a high school principal.” (Booooo!) “That’s not sharing the burden, it’s a slap in the face.” So while we won’t “tax the middle class any more,” we’re going to ask the rich — the top four percent — to kick in.

“96 percent of city taxpayer’s won’t pay any more tax at all.” She says the threat of mass migration of the more-taxed wealthy are unfounded; Princeton did a study on a Jersey tax hike on the rich, she says, and they found “zero percent” rich flight.

Hey, she mentions the Drum Major Institute — from whom she gets an idea: for thousands of New Yorkers who are city-taxed though they don’t make enough to pay federal or state taxes, we will suspend city taxes.

And “We Will Finally Undo URSTAT” — which the Legislature is working on — and bring housing policy “back to New York City where it belongs.”

She talks about condos “from Chelsea to Corona” and such. “I’ve got nothing against high-end development,” she says, but unsold megacomplexes remain as “tarnished trophies” of the late housing boom, and she’s got a plan to “turn these units into affordable homes” for “middle class families to rent or buy” by negotiating with cash-strapped developers. “Empty homes can be the first step in a neighborhood’s decline… I promise you, we won’t make those same mistakes again.”

She brags on the council’s protection of cops and cop training — though that train seems to have left the station — and she promised to continue. She also mentions the “Stop Snitching” graffiti in poorer neighborhoods, and says she’s partnered with community leaders to “paint over that menacing graffiti,” and will work with them to develop an “education and outreach program” and a “hot line” to encourage crime reporting. “It’s not snitching, it’s saving a life.”

And the city will pass two new, “tough penalties” to squelch gangs. Initiation-rite crimes are punished with as little as 15 days in jail — these will be increased. “A gang member who encouraged someone to commit a crime will soon face a year in jail.” And gang intimidation “will also get you a year in jail.”

Now she’s talking about “neighborhood giants and cultural gems,” so we assume she’s wrapping up, thank God. ‘We can foster growth, even in the midst of this recession.”