Time to kill the millionaire’s tax – By George J. Marlin

The following appears in the June 3-9, 2011 issue of the Long Island Business News:

As this year’s session of the state Legislature draws to a close, Albany has been inundated by busloads of special interest groups protesting program cuts, possible layoffs, etc. The constant hue and cry: Since government subsidies are sacrosanct, raise taxes on the rich – those making over $200,000 a year – to maintain and increase funding levels.

What these protesters fail to grasp is that every year tens of thousands of New York’s highest earners are bolting because they are tired of their wallets picked to finance bloated state and local budgets. New York has had the largest net domestic migration of any state – 1.7 million walked out since 1998.

A study by the Manhattan Institute that measured the impact of large income-tax increases on the wealthy in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York concluded that in the aftermath of tax hikes there were significant reductions in the number of well-off people who paid taxes in those states. The report also found that 75 percent of the loss of New York’s tax revenue in 2008-2009 was the “result of reduced income tax payments by rich people.”

New York cannot afford to be hostile to its top earners because its treasury is dependent on their tax revenue. The top 1 percent of earners pays 41 percent of the total state taxes.

In the Big Apple, where the combined state and city income tax is 12.62 percent – the highest burden in the nation – the top 1 percent pays 51 percent of total income taxes. Of the city’s 4 million households, 40,000 are responsible for more than half the tax revenue.

If only 5,000 of those families – many of whom own second homes in low-tax states – change their legal residences, the city’s tax base would be wrecked.

Tom Golisano is a classic example of a frustrated taxpayer. The co-owner of the Buffalo Sabres and founder of Paychex who created thousands of jobs in the Empire State announced in 2009 he was pulling up stakes and moving down south. “I love New York.  But how much should it cost to call New York home?” he asked. “Decades of out-of-control budgets, spending hikes and relentless borrowing have made New York simply too expensive.… Politicians like to talk about incentives … to relocate…. I have identified the most compelling incentive of all: a major tax break immediately available to all New Yorkers. To be eligible you need do only one thing: move out of New York state.” Golisano claimed he is saving at least $5 million a year by changing his residence to Florida.

Reacting to such announcements, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has declared, “Unless we make this an attractive state to do business in and to live in people are going to continue to move out. We have to reverse the trend.”

If the state’s entitlement crowd and their lackeys in the Legislature don’t abandon their “soak-the-rich” ideology, the geese that lay the golden eggs will continue to flee, New York’s economic prospects will continue to decline and the red ink in Albany will continue to flow.

That is why Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ pledge to allow the so-called millionaire’s tax to expire is so important.

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