Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nassau Young Republican Prez Andrew Stream Needs Clarification

I had meant to do a post on the newest NCYR a few months ago but got caught up in a few things.
On the Young Republican website, President Stream goes into a fit of rage over one of Governor Spitzers plans in the new budget. Let's hear Andy "The president of the Nassau County Young Republicans came out swinging against the governor’s recent proposal that would require tax stamps to be purchased by illegal drug dealers and affixed to illegal substances, such as marijuana, prior to sale with no repercussions to the drug dealers.

“Charging taxes on illegal substances is one step in the direction of legalization," remarked YR President Andrew Stream. “The idea of taxing this activity without inflicting any punishment whatsoever is in effect endorsing drug use.”

The proposed tax rates are $3.50 per gram of marijuana and $200 per gram of other controlled substances, regardless of purity.

Stream continued, “Even more ridiculous is the confidentiality clause that the bill includes. The identities of drug dealers who request tax stamps would not be provided to proper law enforcement officials. I’m astonished that a former attorney general who took action across the state to rid the streets of illegal drugs is now attempting to make a profit from them.”

Okay and now for the REALITY:
From the New York Sun "One proposal would allow the state to tax illegal drugs that are
confiscated by police. Anyone caught in possession of marijuana would be taxed $3.50 a gram, and other illegal drugs would be taxed at $200 a gram. A budget official said more than 20 states have similar rules in place."

Basically this is a fine on drug dealers.
No one is endorsing legalizing drugs or looking the other way and collecting taxes on illegal drug sales.
From townhall.com "More than a half-dozen states have a tax on narcotics and other controlled substances. Theoretically, a drug dealer in North Carolina can go to the state revenue office and get a tax stamp for $50 per gram for cocaine over 7 grams (the first 6 grams are tax-free). A moonshiner could get a stamp for $1.28 per gallon of mash.
Then the dealer or the moonshiner can walk away _ the law prohibits snitching on anyone who buys the stamps _ with proof he paid his debt to the tax department.
The idea is that a peddler, even one who sells illegal substances, should pay taxes. But in reality the revenue is only collected after arrests, when dealers are slapped with a tax bill.
"The only folks we have buying those stamps are stamp collectors," said Kim Brooks, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Revenue."

You're not going to see drug dealers applying for tax stamps. What you are going to see is drug dealers caught with illegal drugs being fined for having those drugs on top of going to jail.

And here is the NYTimes article (Andrew probably hates the Times) and lo and behold pro-legalization people HATE the proposal "Of course, drug dealers are unlikely to obtain tax stamps before selling their illegal wares. So the law would require police agencies and district attorney offices to notify the State Taxation and Finance Department about any dealer who has failed to pay the tax. “This requirement does not apply, however, if providing the information would violate a legal prohibition or would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation or prosecution,” the proposal states.
The Spitzer administration projects that the proposal would raise $13 million in the 2008-9 fiscal year and $17 million each year thereafter. According to the Spitzer administration, 29 other states have already passed laws imposing tax liability for controlled substances: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports legalization of marijuana and seeks to move the war on drugs from criminal justice to public health, expressed concern about the proposal in a phone interview. He said:
I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, it seems perfectly reasonable for people to pay on a tax on selling something, whether it’s legal or illegal. On the other hand, these tax stamps seem like a gratuitous piling-on in the drug war."

And here it is from the NYPost "Spitzer aides said they realize it's highly unlikely any drug dealers would come forward to purchase tax stamps.
That is why, they say, the governor's proposal requires "prompt notification" of the tax commissioner by law-enforcement agencies and DAs "who obtain any information that indicates that a dealer has failed to pay the tax due."

And just in case Stream needs more help, the
"confidentiality clause" is there to protect the constitutionality of the law. In the other states, there have been attempts to over-turn the existing drug tax law because of double jeopardy claims. Most all have failed.

The long and short of this is that crime (illegal drug dealers) will have to pay the state.

Saladino and the MTA Fare Hike - Not Thinking it Through Again

Just when I thought I could agree with Assemblyman Joe Saladino about LIRR fare hikes, I had to go and read his entire letter in the Massapequa edition of the South Bay News.. After reading the letter I came to the conclusion that beyond opposing the fare hike, Assemblyman Saladino knows very little about the issue.
As a daily commuter on the LIRR, I too oppose a fare increase. I also oppose a fare increase for the NYC Subway system which would be a double hit on commuters from Long Island. In addition to my monthly LIRR ticket, I buy a metrocard for the subway as do most of the LIRR commuters. Clearly Mr. Saladino has never had to commute to the city.
Saladino writes “It would seem as though charging Long Islanders more is acceptable to them while New York City subway riders receive no increase.”
The fact is that the MTA is reducing the metro card pay-per-ride bonus and increasing the 7 Day and 30 Day Unlimited Ride fares. A 25 cent subway fare increase was put off for another year but a majority of riders (86%) use the Unlimited Rides and buy Metrocards with the bonus. This hurts Long Island commuters and city residents alike.
A 25 cent increase would only make matters worse especially for those of us who commute every day. Does Saladino want the almost 270,000 daily Long Island commuters to pay more on top of higher LIRR fares? I sure hope not.

Saladino really goes off the rails when he writes ” We must not be used to fill the coffers of city authorities and schools…” and “The time has come to stop using Long Island taxpayers as the Golden Goose for special interests and city services.”
For the past few years, instead of dealing with the issues thoughtfully, Saladino makes New York City to be the big bad boogeyman responsible for all our ills. I am not going to get into the other issues but just focus on the MTA fares right now. The fact is that when it comes to fares as a percent of operating expenditures, NYC Transit is 53.1% while the LIRR is just 44.6%. When you look at state and local general or dedicated funds as percent of operating expenditures, the LIRR gets 53.8% while NYC Transit only gets 44.9%.
The problem is that the MTA suffered under 12 years of Governor Pataki’s lacksidasical interest in commuter rail and many bad choices by the MTA board.
The riders who are also taxpayers will always bear the burden of a transit authority that has not been reigned in for many, many years. Instead of a dumping ground for political patronage and half-formed financial gimmicks, the MTA needs to be run more efficiently and in the open so we can see where the money is going. Total ridership for the LIRR is up 8%. So where is all that money going to? That is what we need to focus on. We need to know how the money generated by the LIRR is being spent. I don’t have all the answers to solve the financial problems the MTA constantly finds itself in but I do recognize the problem starts with the MTA Board itself.
As a commuter, I hope that Saladino will focus on the real issues with the MTA and stop the anti- New York City polemics. It doesn’t help and it’s mostly smoke and mirrors to avoid dealing with the real problems we have.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fence-Sitter Venditto Strikes Again

Re: a cross-sound tunnel, other politicians have an opinion. Suffolk Exec. Levy says he "is inclined to look favorably on" but wants more info. The Mayor of Rye says 'No.' Mamaroneck Supervisor O'Keeffe says "We only see environmental degradation and quality-of-life problems and economic problems."
Venditto? His opinion will only be known after he sees which way the wind of NIMBY opinion will blow.
If Venditto had any courage he would have an opinion even if it were an initial gut reaction.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Insanity in Albany

From both sides.
NYS is facing a $4.3billion budget shortfall.
There is no plan for equitable school funding reform.
The rebate checks still cost more to send out than what is actually given out.
Legislators "Members Items" are still extra-budgetary shenanigans.
We need Sanity in Albany.
We need to dump the professional politicians.
2008 can be the year we clean up Albany once and for all.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

It's Not About Good Government, It's About "What's Good for Me"

I took a long hiatus so forgive the older stories I'm bringing up.

Last month, the legislature approved raises for Suozzi, Rice, Weitzman, O'Connell and Levinson. The raises could be considered a tad big but that was the recommendation of a panel. For it or against it, it is refreshing to see republican legislator Fran Becker tell newsday honestly why he voted against the raises. Newsday reports that the republicans voted against the raises for a simple reason... "ME TOO!"
From Newsday: "
The vote came after legislative Republicans denounced Democrats for not seeking a similar raise for legislators, who earn $39,500 annually."
So it's really about the republicans wanting more money and not being fiscally conservative.
All the republicans minus Denise Ford voted against the raises for the same reason but Becker really nailed it.
Becker tells Newsday "
I don't even remotely get paid what I deserve," said Becker, a financial planner. "We're severely underpaid and we're asking for a raise so we can send our kids to college."

Looking at Beckers record and what he did while he was in the majority, Becker deserves LESS than whet he gets.
The kicker is that Becker the "financial planner" wants more money to send his kids to college but as a "financial planner" he should have "PLANNED" on saving money for that reason.
Becker wants you the Nassau Taxpayer to subsidize his kids college costs.
Nevermind that the Legislature is a PART TIME job and Becker should have a real full-time job that pays a real salary.
Maybe Fran could get a patronage job with the Town of Hempstead if he needs more money.

There is nothing wrong with the Nassau Legislature getting a raise in line with other part-time legislatures but it's interesting that they did not make a big deal about wanting more money before the november election.