New York State's financial plight

If anyone understands New York State's financial plight, it's the North Syracuse Central School District.

+ The district has lost $17 million in school aid during the last two years;

+ More than 135 positions have been eliminated during the last two years;

+ Another 104 are at risk at the present time.

But what I don't understand is the governor's insistence on not extending the surcharge on New York State's highest earners through at least December 2012. As the New York Times explained recently, the high earner surcharge currently applies to individuals with taxable income above $200,000 or married couples above $300,000-the top 2.8 percent of New York taxpayers. Keep in mind that the taxable income is total income minus exemptions, deductions, and other tax breaks, so the gross pay is much higher than the stated $200,000--$300,000 threshold.

With the surcharge, a couple with $350,000 in taxable income would continue to pay an extra $3,500 and a couple with a taxable income of $1.5 million would pay $31,800 more, with those payments "more than offset by the federal tax breaks those same taxpayers" received with the recent renewal of the federal government's income tax cuts.

Extending the surcharge through 2012 would have added an estimated $1.1 billion in revenue for the January 1, 2012 - March 31, 2012 period and $4.6 billion for an entire fiscal year. Cuomo argued that the surcharge encourages many wealthy individuals to leave New York, but the evidence isn't that clear.

It's true that from 2007 to 2009, New York saw a decline of 9.4 percent, or approximately 35,000 taxpayers who were worth $1 million or more. But that's not to be confused with those who made $1 million or more. Keep in mind that this was a period of a falling stock market. In 2010, with the help of a higher stock market, the number of millionaires jumped by 35,000 and equaled the 2007 number.

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