Lauren Wagner

NY Single-payer Health Care Would Be Hazardous to Taxpayers’ Health

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Posted by Lauren Wagner on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018, 9:14 AM PERMALINK

Finally, New York has a plan to enact a single-payer health system that will actually save money! Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it is, regardless of what its proponents are saying.

The headlines about a new RAND Corp. report read, “Study finds New York state’s proposed single-payer system financially feasible” and “Single-payer plan in New York could cover all without increasing spending”. As encouraging as these titles sound, the reality will make you feel sick.

In reality, single-payer in New York would more than double the state tax burden, and cost all the federal tax dollars that go into New York for public health care related spending (Medicaid, Medicare, and Obamacare related credits). All that federal spending would have to be devoted instead to single payer.

The act calls for $139 billion in new state tax revenue, 156 percent more than New York currently collects from all of its citizens.

Even for New York the added layers of taxes are shocking. The report estimates massive new income and payroll taxes on nearly everyone - including rates of over 12 percent for decidedly middle-class households making $27,501 to $141,200.

The plan is so expensive and reliant on new tax revenues that even if a few high earning taxpayers and businesses leave the state (a predictable outcome) it could collapse.

It would hammer low-income New Yorkers. Under the predicted tax schedule by RAND, roughly 700,000 low-income individuals would actually end up paying more “because their taxes would increase without the concurrent benefit of lower health care costs.”

And these are the rosy scenarios…RAND researchers noted their model is still, “highly uncertain and [depends] on providers’ bargaining power, the state’s ability to administer the plan efficiently, and the federal government’s willingness to grant waivers to the state.”

That’s right, “the state’s ability to administer the plan efficiently.”  Don’t bet your life on it.

Empire Center’s Bill Hammond took the report to task for the reliance on assumptions that are unlikely to all pan out:

“Each of these assumptions is uncertain at best. The chances that all four would bear out completely must be considered a long shot. Yet that was the basis of RAND’s findings that costs would not mushroom and that a $139 billion tax hike would be roughly sufficient to finance the system.”

Prior reports suggested added tax revenue of $90-$100 billion could cover single payer in the state, now it is becoming even more clear that $139 billion in revenues would not be enough. Single payer in New York would be an obvious disaster, sold at taxpayer expense with scenarios that don’t stand the reality test.

Photo Credit: Pat Arnow

Gov. Murphy Should Bag the Bag Tax

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Posted by Lauren Wagner on Tuesday, July 24th, 2018, 6:25 PM PERMALINK

During the budget battle late last month, the New Jersey legislature introduced and passed a bag tax that remains on Governor Murphy’s desk. Though time is running thin.

The 5-cent tax on traditional plastic and paper bags (A-3267/S-2600) is a regressive tax that will hurt New Jerseyans who can least afford the extra cost, all because Trenton can’t stop increasing spending.

It’s part of the legislature’s budget package, now passed and awaiting veto, that included other hikes like a massive corporate tax increase. They were countering Governor Murphy’s $1.7 billion in tax hikes included in his $37 billion-plus spending plan.

As an individual bill however, Murphy could sign the bag fee into law on its own, hammering those who can least afford it with nickel-and-diming taxes so Trenton can pass the money around to special interest allies.

The way consumption taxes such as this one are always sold to the public is with promises of environmental progress and much needed financing of specific public projects supported by voters. The reality never equals the pitch.

According to, “Murphy has about 30 days left to decide the fate of the 5-cent fee bill, passed hurriedly by the Legislature last month as lawmakers were scrambling to find new revenue sources. Dan Bryan, a spokesman for Murphy, said Monday that no final decision has been made regarding the bill.”

Signing this bag tax into law would prove to voters that Governor Murphy has more interest in fueling the state’s out of control spending than protecting low-and-moderate income families. 

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Almost Closing Time for Labor Dept. Decision on Tipped-Wage in NY

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Posted by Lauren Wagner on Tuesday, July 17th, 2018, 9:55 AM PERMALINK

The New York Department of Labor has held seven hearings throughout the state as they carry out Governor Cuomo’s order to consider ending the tipped-wage - which allows service sector workers to earn less than the minimum wage as they earn tips to make up and exceed the difference.

The final hearing took place a couple weeks ago and the deadline for written testimony ended July 1st. After over 40 hours of testimony and hundreds of written comments, including those submitted by Americans for Tax Reform in opposition to ending the tipped-wage, we wait for a decision.

The Department of Labor has the ability to raise the minimum wage for tipped employees without approval from voters or the state legislature. In fact, they already did for employees of the hospitality sector in 2015. Restaurant owners and the employees that would be directly affected by this decision would be robbed of their voice and vote in the matter.

What cannot be lost at this stage of the process is that the push to end the tip credit has been almost entirely driven by narrow special interests and unions. It is a shameless attack on an industry, and the workers that industry employs, for the sole benefit of these interests. It is a campaign devoid of real facts.

The Restaurant Opportunities Center is the group fervently seeking to end the tipped wage.

Perhaps the most egregious example of their dishonest tactics is a letter they send to the Governor. This letter included names of restaurateurs, such as Danny Meyer and James Mallios, without their consent.

If New York State sides with these unscrupulous interests, it will be completely ignoring that the vast majority of restaurant workers and owners testified in favor of the current system, according to Save NY Tips. It would appear they also have not considered that this decision would be “devastating to for communities of color”, as pointed out by Reverend Kirsten John Foy.

It will also drive up costs for consumers, kill jobs, and shut down more affordable restaurants.

Our nations capital, Washington D.C., just passed a similar measure by referendum. Initiative 77 will slowly bring the wage for D.C. tipped workers to the general minimum wage by 2026. ROC United was also outspoken on this initiative, arguing that employers often fail to pay the difference when workers tips do not average to minimum wage. However, data suggests that only five percent of workers are stiffed by their employers.

Photo Credit: Jean-Christophe BENOIST

NYC Thinks Up More Disastrous Anti-Uber & Lyft Rules

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Posted by Lauren Wagner on Wednesday, July 11th, 2018, 8:14 PM PERMALINK

Ridesharing remains under fire from regulatory proposals that could put the brakes on the sharing economy in New York City.

Following the introduction of legislation in the City Council that would drive up costs and limit choice by capping cars and restricting drivers to specific regions of the city, the talk turned to a guaranteed wage.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission proposed a $17.22-per-hour minimum wage for drivers for Uber and other ride-hailing apps.

While the Mayor’s top taxi official supported the proposal, one of his spokesman said that the Mayor and City Council have not made any decisions on the path to take, throwing some cold water on the idea.

Specifically, the proposed rules would require companies to make up the difference if a driver’s earnings fall below $17.22 per hour over the course of a week. The median net hourly earnings among drivers were roughly $14.25. The goal is to bring pay up to the job-killing $15 minimum wage that the city is moving toward, taking into account additional expenses drivers have.

The proposal also suggests that the ride-hailing companies cut their commissions in order to make up the cost of raising wages.

The rules would apply to four major car service apps: Uber, Lyft, Via, and Juno. These business provide more than 10,000 trips every day in New York.

It’s possible that the app drivers would end up having to work harder for the same amount of money. When drivers work a greater portion of each hour, the wages they earn per-mile and per-minute decrease. Additionally, the new system would allow for slacking. Since the drivers would be paid $17.22 per hour regardless of how many passengers they transport, they would have the option to decline rides and still collect minimum wage. In response to the report, Uber stated that the minimum wage would ultimately make the service less reliable and available.

Photo Credit: NYC DOT

New Hope from Janus, But in NY the Empire Looks to Strike Back

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Posted by Lauren Wagner on Wednesday, July 11th, 2018, 1:57 PM PERMALINK

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Janus v. AFSCME delivered a blow to union funds.

That has given new hope to workers who were forced to subsidize political speech they disagreed with. Unions may have had to retreat, but in states they tend to dominate, the empire is looking to strike back.

The decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, declared it unconstitutional for unions to force nonmembers to pay dues.

On cue, a New York lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation that would use taxpayer money as a replacement for the “agency fees” that were forbidden by the Supreme Court.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) has proposed allowing public employers to agree to “direct reimbursement” of the union for “the costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and related costs.”

An article from the Empire Center says that “it’s unlikely that any worker would experience a pay cut under the scheme described by Gottfried, given the realities of union negotiations under state law. Instead, a percentage of future raises would be designated as collective bargaining expenses and permanently embedded in base salaries on a recurring, permanent basis.”

According to Empire’s Ken Giradin, “about 1,700 local governments, school districts and public authorities will need to update their payroll systems to end agency fee deductions, which total about $112 million a year in New York.

It is efforts like this one in New York that make it vital workers are educated on their rights, and empowered to exercise them.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Prevailing Wage Law Repealed in Michigan

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Posted by Lauren Wagner on Thursday, June 7th, 2018, 5:48 PM PERMALINK

Michigan has now become the 5th state to repeal a prevailing wage law, joining Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, twenty-two states do not have prevailing wage laws. Michigan’s prevailing wage law specifically covered construction workers on state financed projects.

The repeal of prevailing wage means billions in savings for Michigan taxpayers over just a few years thanks to construction project costs no longer being driven up by inflated wages. It’s a win for taxpayers in the tug of war with unions.

A study by the Anderson Economic group found that the act cost Michigan taxpayers an average of $224 million per year on K-12 districts, community colleges, and public universities from 2002 to 2012.

The legislation passed Wednesday in the House and the Senate, despite opposition from Democrats and some Republicans. The issue was brought to focus by Protect Michigan Taxpayers, who created a petition and sent it to the Capitol after obtaining substantial signatures.

While the legislature could have let citizens vote on it through a ballot in November, they decided to approve it themselves. Since the bill met a signature threshold and passed both chambers, it does not need to be signed by Governor Rick Snyder, a supporter of the prevailing wage law. Instead, the bill will become law immediately.

Republican state senators have argued that the prevailing wage law is outdated and burdensome to taxpayers. Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Act was passed in 1965.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Fee or Ban? New Jersey Lawmakers Shop for Misguided Plastic Bag Policy

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Posted by Lauren Wagner on Thursday, May 31st, 2018, 4:57 PM PERMALINK

New Jersey legislators are weighing whether to loot low-income residents with a plastic bag fee, or go for a full ban to kill jobs and risk unintended environmental consequences.

Many lawmakers have decided they will implement new environmental policy on plastic bags – but they haven’t decided how to do it.

Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon has introduced legislation to ban plastic shopping bags in the state within three years. However, another Democratic state politician, Valerie Huttle, would prefer to impose a 5-cent fee per plastic bag to discourage use. The proceeds from the tax would go to a special fund for lead abatement. Nonetheless, New Jersey has a history of imposing fees dedicated to special uses, which then are just lumped into the regular budget.

While the purpose is to reduce plastic in oceans and other waterways, there are unintended environmental consequences of banning plastic bags. Once disposed, reusable bags take up to 9.3% more space than plastic bags in landfills.

Backed by a marketing blitz, reusable bags have been sold as environmentally friendly, even though the standard reusable cotton grocery bag must be reused 131 times “to ensure that they have lower global warming potential than” a plastic bag used only once.

Adding an extra tax on plastic bags could have a negative impact, especially on low-income households. Food prices are already expensive, and not everyone can afford an extra tax or the price of a reusable bag.

These policies will also damage the almost 30,000 American manufacturing and recycling jobs in the United States.

New Jersey politicians should stop rushing and start considering the impact these misguided policies would have on the everyday lives of their constituents.

Photo Credit: 1Flatworld

People Are Paying a Big Price for Governor Cuomo’s Political Assault on Energy

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Posted by Lauren Wagner on Wednesday, May 30th, 2018, 1:39 PM PERMALINK

One big reason New York has become unaffordable, and suffers from the worst outmigration of any state, is the cost of energy.

Residents of New York are paying ridiculously high electricity bills thanks largely to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s politicized energy policy. This approach is led by the state’s moratorium on natural gas extraction, and a “50-by-30” renewable energy push that has taxpayers and energy consumers paying for huge subsidies to green energy, while the state rams wind mills and solar farms into communities that don’t want them.

New Yorkers are even forced to subsidize a bailout for nuclear power plants (that the operators wanted to close) through a hidden fee on their utility bills.

New York also has blocked natural gas pipelines from running through the state. According to “Pipelines and their Benefits to New York”, a report released by the Consumer Energy Alliance, “there is a significant economic impact… from the numerous denied, delayed and proposed pipeline projects in the state.”

“New York residents, on average, pay 44% more for electricity than other states, 26% more than neighboring Pennsylvania and 40% more than Ohio,” wrote Jim Willis, editor and publisher of Marcellus Drilling News. “In January of this year, New Yorkers (and New York utility companies) were briefly forced to pay a record high of $140.25 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) for natural gas, as opposed to what everyone else was paying (an average of $3.08/Mcf)—which is 46 times as much!”

As appealing as renewable energy sounds, Jim Willis notes that “you can’t build windmills and solar farms fast enough to meet the demand for electricity and, by extension, natural gas.”

This argument is supported by the report when it mentions that “in New York, natural gas alone provides nearly 46% of the state’s electricity needs. As the state continues to rely more and more on natural gas and building or expanding gas-fired power plants, that number is expected to rise to 56% of New York’s electric needs.”

This terrible policymaking not only raises the price of electricity, but weakens the economy as well. “Natural gas is the foundational building block for the state’s manufacturing sector,” according to CEA’s report. “New York had over 194,400 jobs that were tied to energy-intensive companies and made up nearly 55 percent of the state’s manufacturing sector.”

It is time for New York politicians to lighten up and change the state’s approach on energy.

Photo Credit: Diana Robinson

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