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Lawmakers’ tax-hike temptation could end NY as we know it

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Lawmakers' tax-hike temptation could end NY as we know it

Albany progressives are drooling at the chance to hike taxes as they hammer out a budget for the new fiscal year, which starts April 1. Yet their dreams threaten a nightmare for New York’s economy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan would raise levies $2 billion, mostly via an income-tax surcharge on top earners and a delay in scheduled tax cuts for the middle class. And proposals in the Legislature (now packed with radical leftists) would go even further.

The income-tax hike alone would put New York’s top combined state and local tax rate at 14.7 percent, the nation’s highest. As the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission notes, that “heightens the risk that these residents will leave the state, taking their tax payments and possibly business interests with them.”

Empire Center fiscal expert E.J. McMahon has echoed that fear, noting that “the highest 1 percent of taxpayers” already account for 40 percent of the state’s personal-income tax. If efforts to bleed them for more drive them away, the state could see a net loss on its tax hikes.

Cash-flight risks are higher now, the CBC points out: “The past 11 months of telecommuting and remote business administration” have proven “the viability of being outside of New York.”

Meanwhile, leaders in the securities industry, which accounts for 18 percent of state tax collections, are sounding alarms about similar “consequences” of reinstating a stock-transfer tax: “If Albany lawmakers get their way,” New York Stock Exchange President Stacey Cunningham warns, “the center of the global financial industry may need to find a new home.” Already, she notes, many Wall Street employees are migrating to states with more hospitable tax policies.

So New York stands to lose not just taxpayers who contribute the most to the budget but also a major industry. The state would never look the same.

Stock-transfer taxes, by the way, often fail to bring in the expected revenue, since firms simply move to avoid them, adds Cunningham. Regular folks would pay, too, as the cost gets passed along: Vanguard estimates a tax of just 0.1 percent would force retirement-account investors to work 2 ½ years longer to rack up the same savings.

There are better budget-balancing steps, like trimming Albany’s “economic-development” slush fund, which hands out nearly half a billion dollars a year to the film and TV industry alone. Or reining in school spending, which is far higher here per student than in any other state.

But raising taxes should be off the table. If New York is to survive, fiscally and economically, it needs to prop up its economy and hang on to its tax base — not decimate them both.

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Opinion

If AP really didn’t know it shared space with Hamas, why trust its reporting?

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If AP really didn’t know it shared space with Hamas, why trust its reporting?

After an Israeli airstrike Saturday destroyed a high-rise office tower on the Gaza Strip, the Associated Press, which had offices there for 15 years, complained, claiming it had no idea the building was also home to Hamas.

If it’s true that AP was so unaware — and the evidence suggests it’s unlikely — how can anyone trust its reporting in the region?

The Israeli military ordered the 12-story al-Jalaa Tower, which hosts AP and Al Jazeera offices, evacuated an hour before the strike, saying it was being used by Hamas military intelligence. For a week, tensions between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza, have been at their highest since their 2014 conflict, with Hamas raining thousands of rockets into residential areas of the Jewish state.

Israel later shared some intelligence with the United States. “We showed them the smoking gun proving Hamas worked out of that building,” a source close to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told the Jerusalem Post. “I understand they found the explanation satisfactory.”

Of course, we’ve known for years that, as the Israel Defense Forces put it, Hamas “intentionally locates its military assets in the hearts of civil populations,” even “hiding behind” media outlets and “using them as human shields.”

And AP knew that well, according to one account. “When Hamas’ leaders surveyed their assets before this summer’s round of fighting, they knew that among those assets was the international press. The AP staff in Gaza City would witness a rocket launch right beside their office, endangering reporters and other civilians nearby — and the AP wouldn’t report it,” says a 2014 Atlantic piece by Matti Friedman. Hamas militants would regularly “burst into the AP’s Gaza bureau and threaten the staff — and the AP wouldn’t report it.”

It seems that what AP doesn’t know — and doesn’t report — always favors Hamas over those the group terrorizes.

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NYC’s homeless problem fails the most vulnerable and endangers us all

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NYC's homeless problem fails the most vulnerable and endangers us all

Rarely a day goes by without some violent attack in Gotham. After a while, the headlines can easily blend into each other, lulling us into complacency. But it’s important to dig into the details to understand the government failures at work.

Consider the heinous assault against an elderly Asian-American woman in Times Square in March. The alleged perpetrator, Brandon Elliott, kicked the woman in the stomach and then stomped on her head repeatedly. The 38-year-old Elliott had been paroled after spending 19 years in prison for murdering his mother.

And where was Elliot released to after spending almost two decades behind bars? A mental-health institution? Into the care of family? No, he was released to a Four Points by Sheraton hotel, which serves as a homeless shelter, a few blocks from where Elliot would allegedly commit his hateful crime.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks refuse to acknowledge it, but our city’s homeless policies aren’t working. The city fails both the homeless, who need our assistance, and taxpayers, who expect safe streets.

Yet Banks, especially, refuses to be held accountable. During a recent hearing, I asked him how many faith-based shelters had been opened in the Big Apple, since these settings can often be of tremendous value to taxpayers and homeless alike, fostering the kind of community support the homeless need to return to self-sufficiency. It was a straightforward question, not a “gotcha.” But even this mild query was too much for Banks.

When he refused to answer, I asked again and followed up with a question about the prior ZIP codes of residents who entered the homeless shelter in my district. Banks blew up at me and erupted into a bizarre tirade.

Homelessness is big business in New York, and under Banks and de Blasio, business has boomed. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, homelessness in the city has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression. The cost of the city’s shelter network has ballooned in tandem, to $2 billion.

Early in his administration, the mayor dismissed claims of a homelessness crisis.  Yet eventually, it couldn’t be denied. Even so, bureaucratic mismanagement plagued a Department of Homeless Services struggling to respond: Contracts to services providers couldn’t get approved by the city comptroller’s office, with some contracts never even being sent. Conditions in shelters were appalling for women and children.

Following the resignations of a deputy mayor and DHS commissioner in 2015, Banks became the chief of de Blasio’s doomed homelessness policy. Things didn’t improve.

Banks’ lack of interest in holding operating companies accountable for broken promises, like security and cleanliness, kept shelters dangerous. Many homeless New Yorkers would rather take their chances on the street.

The crisis snowballed, as Banks ignored mental-health issues and perpetuated the myth that every homeless individual is just “down on their luck.” But research shows that at least half of the homeless have some mental illness. New York City also has a prison-to-shelter pipeline that goes unaddressed.

Research from Stephen Eide at the Manhattan Institute reveals that 3,500 ex-offenders were released directly from prison into the shelter system in 2018. Other experts have testified that more than 40 percent of parolees are released into a shelter. As the recent attacks show, the pipeline too often leads, in the end, to more crime.

Acknowledging the mental-health crisis means using Kendra’s Law, which places the severely mentally ill in court-mandated treatment. Separating the mentally ill from the economically homeless would allow the city to provide better services in a safer environment. Services are needed to get these individuals on a path to self-sufficiency.

Banks made it hard to work with his agencies. For years, I tried to get data from him on the shelter in my district. Understanding which neighborhoods shelter residents were living in before moving into a shelter could help us allocate resources to prevent homelessness in the first place and then implement community-based solutions for those who become homeless.

Research has shown that community bonds are important in assisting individuals back to self-sufficiency. That is why I support faith-based shelters for community residents who find themselves homeless. New Yorkers experiencing homelessness should be sheltered with safety and dignity. But thanks to Banks’ embrace of the warehouse shelter model and the shelter-industrial complex, there’s no financial incentive to decrease homelessness or make shelters safer.

The next administration must do better.

Robert Holden represents the 30th District, covering parts of Queens, in the City Council.

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Opinion

People need to trust vaccines — not be bribed to get them

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People need to trust vaccines — not be bribed to get them

With just 59 percent of adults fully or partially vaccinated and the number of daily vaccinations falling, one supposed solution is to offer a financial reward — as much as a million dollars! — to get jabs. Turning public health into a lottery, though, is a stretch of medical ethics: People reluctant to get a shot should be persuaded, not bought off.

The most obvious appeal to the pocketbook is in Ohio. There, Gov. Mike DeWine is giving away chances to win five $1 million cash prizes and five full public-college scholarships to teens who get a vaccination. 

Will this work? The only way to tell is to wait and see. If Ohio sees a surge in vaccinations, good. 

Yet the game-show approach is unnerving. Like any lottery, it appeals disproportionately to compulsive gamblers — the 1 percent who feel they can’t miss out on a chance to win.  

For hundreds of thousands of Ohioans, preying on the fear of losing a prize may feel more like coercion than a public-health measure.

Less seriously, what is the motive Ohio wants people to have in desiring a vaccine?  

All available science indicates the vaccine is safe and effective. (I got two, more than two weeks ago, am still alive and haven’t gotten COVID yet. If my non-doctor opinion matters to anyone, I would recommend getting it.)

But the vaccine is still a serious medical choice, having to do with both public and personal health.  

People should weigh the benefits, which seem high, against the risks, which seem low for most people, to the best of their own abilities.  

Adding a massive payoff skews these decisions. People have to feel happy with the choices they made and feel they made their choices freely, without pressure — especially important if it turns out that we’ll all need booster shots every six months or every year.

Being hesitant or skeptical — or just distrusting the government, after years and months of incompetence by both political parties — does not mark someone as an idiot or conspiracist.  

For the most hesitant, attempting to buy people off may backfire: If it’s so great, why do you need to dangle seven figures in front of me?

Before looking for big headlines, governments should consider why some people are hesitant. The good news is hesitancy rates are falling, according to a new University of Pittsburgh public-health study, dropping from 27.5 percent in March to 22 percent.

Of the hesitant, half are worried about side effects, a worry that should continue to fall as they observe that vaccinated people have lived to tell the tale.

Far smaller percentages don’t trust the government, don’t think the COVID vaccines safe or don’t like vaccines overall. (The last is a truly small category, at only 3 percent of the population.) 

For those who don’t trust government, a lottery may be far less important than recent news that eight Yankee employees got COVID despite being vaccinated. This could be a PR setback for the vaccines, unless public-health officials aggressively acknowledge that this is not what people should expect. They should answer questions about it, including during baseball games, where it’s the topic of much of the banter in between the play-by-play.

The short pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine didn’t help, either.  

What about people who just haven’t gotten around to it yet? Making the vaccine ever easier to get is a good idea. Availability at train stations will lure the path-of-least-resistance people, as might tented curbside service outside pharmacies and supermarkets, so that people are reminded on their regular walks.

Then there’s the immigration and insurance issue. New York state repeatedly tells people that they don’t need to be in the country legally to get the vaccine and that they don’t need insurance — yet it still asks people signing up whether they have insurance and, if so, demands their policy numbers and the like. There’s no reason to ask these questions at all and deter people afraid of getting a bill later.  

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with free donuts, fries and beer offered by private companies — although one fears for the republic if anyone is actually persuaded to get their shot just because of a chocolate glazed.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.  

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