Letter to the editor on Progressive City Income Tax

November 5, 2017

To the editor:

Your editorial (“Ben Walsh for Mayor,” Nov. 5) claims that my proposal for a progressive city income tax "would be a disaster, driving employers who could move or expand elsewhere to do so.”

I am not proposing a business income tax. I am proposing a personal tax on individuals who earn income in the city, whether they are residents or commuters.

Personal income taxes do not appear on a business’s profit and loss statement. The do not affect a business’s bottom line.

The published studies on taxation and business location find no correlation between personal income taxes and business location at the municipal or state level.

4,943 jurisdictions in 17 states, covering over 23 million residents, have local income taxes. If your claim of driving employers away was correct, why aren’t businesses in the booming economy of New York City, with a city income tax averaging 3 percent, moving to cities like Syracuse with no income tax.

I am proposing a progressively graduated income tax averaging 1 percent. That would generate $28 million from the city’s $2.8 billion payroll. It would more than cover the city’s recurring $15-20 million structural deficit. With reserves down to $20-30 million at the end of the current fiscal year, the next mayor’s first budget may be their last without more deep cuts to city services or significant new revenues.

If not progressive income taxes – in the form of increased state revenue sharing of our state income taxes and/or a local income tax — where does the editorial board propose to find the revenues to avert city bankruptcy and a state-imposed financial control board?

The editorial suggests efficiencies (i.e., more cuts), shared services with the county (not nearly enough savings to cover the deficit), and “to think creatively.” That is not a realistic plan.

Howie Hawkins

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Howie Hawkins is the 2017 Green candidate for Syracuse Mayor
Hawkins for Mayor