The mayor and your tax dollars then and now

Behind The News
January 17, 2008 1:20:31 PM PST
It's a fair question, no matter what your political stripe. Would the Michael Bloomberg who became Mayor of New York in 2002 hang on to the property tax cuts that Michael Bloomberg, Mayor in 2008, is proposing? The City has a surplus right now -- but it faces billions -- many billions - in deficits in the coming years, according to the Mayor's own projections. Would Michael Bloomberg of 2002 vintage have continued his tax cuts, given the projected deficits?

Would Bloomberg of 2008 continue them if he weren't deciding whether or not to run for President?

It's a fair question, as I say, no matter what your political stripe.

It's hard for me to say he would have. The Mayor is a smart businessman - or at least a successful one, judging by his net worth - estimated at as much as $11 billion.

Would he run his business like this? Hard to imagine.

When Bloomberg took office, the City was facing huge deficits, after the terror attacks. What did the successful businessman-turned-Mayor do? He RAISED taxes. Property taxes went up more than 18%.

Would he have cut taxes back then?

Hard to imagine.

The continued property tax cuts this time will cost the City $1 billion in lost revenue. And - yes, I know, I know, the $400 property tax refund means a lot to some people. No question.

But in an era of projected deficits, with the economy in inarguably unhealthy shape, -- with tighter credit and fewer jobs and more foreclosed homes and a falling stock market - is the City in a position to give back $1 billion?

There are, of course, many people who say "absolutely positively yes." They argue that taxes can be better used by the people who paid them -- the taxpayers.

Did President Bush's instant tax refund help the economy? Many say it did not, although some would argue that if the tax cut hadn't happened, the economy would be worse off still. And that's the problem with this less-than-empirical "solution."

And what about the President's big tax cut for the wealthy? Did that generate the booming economy some thought it would? Hard to make that argument, now that we stand on the threshold of the dreaded R-word. Recession.

We probably won't get into the intricacies of fiscal and monetary policies on tonight's 11 -- but we will explore the implications of the Mayor's State Of The City address today -- what it means for property owners, for the City's budget, for services and for your pocketbook.

While many experts are talking about a recession, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is not. Ben Barnanke told Congress today that the economy is growing, just very slowly, and that aggressive action - meaning lower interest rates - is the key to solving the problem. We'll have reaction to the Chairman's testimony, at 11. We know how the market reacted: it lost hundreds of points today. Again.

Weather is also making news tonight -- Jeff Smith, in for Lee Goldberg, is watching two storm systems that are coming in; one tonight and the other on Saturday night. Jeff will tell us how much snow or rain we'll get and how it will affect the morning commute.

And Kemberly Richardson is in Green Bay for us tonight, getting some flavor and color for this weekend's NFC Championship game between the Packers and your New York Giants. Some reporters from Wisconsin stations were at our shop this week, doing the same thing here that Kemberly is doing there. So fascinating to talk to them and to Kemberly about how the reaction here is so different. Everyone -- e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e -- is completely into the football game in Green Bay. Here? Not so much. Compared to Green Bay, where football equals life and where the post-season is akin to heaven on earth, New York is not much of a sports town. Compared.

Kemberly shows us just how berserk they've gone, tonight at 11.

We'll also have the latest on the British Airways emergency landing at Heathrow. What happened to the Boeing 777? Did it run out of fuel or did the electrical system just die? Either way, the pictures of the accident are amazing - -it's incredible there were only a handful or so minor injuries. The pilot did one heck of a job gliding the giant plane in.

And many of you may remember the old "Queen For A Day" TV show -- where down-on their-luck contestants, mostly women - in fact all women if I remember correctly -- would spill their guts and their stories to a studio audience, who would then vote via an applause meter for that show's "Queen For A Day."

Tonight the story of a man who's putting a new spin on this concept -- a developer in Yonkers who, hoping to promote his new building, is asking people to submit, via YouTube, their stories about how desperate they are to move. Whoever wins, gets a $3,366 credit toward rent in the new building.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

Bill Ritter