Ed Driscoll

Escape From New York

Last year, when New York’s incoming governor David Paterson replaced disgraced fellow Democrat Elliot Spitzer, I quoted this passage from Nicole Gelinas of City Journal:

To lay out his goals, Paterson gave a speech last week similar to the one that Codey delivered nearly three years ago. “We need to take a realistic view of New York State’s budget,” he said, which is “too big and too bloated.” He gently warned the legislature against its usual budget-balancing tricks: overestimating revenues, issuing long-term debt or hiking taxes to cover one-year shortfalls, and trying to use “gimmicks to solve real problems.” He added that the legislature’s modest cuts to Spitzer’s budget proposal would be eaten up by April as tax revenues continue to fall. “We have got to address these issues,” he said, “and not by taxing anybody.”

Paterson could have recited facts and figures from census reports on how New York ranked dead last, in both raw numbers and percentages, in net domestic population losses between 2000 and 2004, with nearly 183,000 residents leaving the state annually. While immigration from other countries more than made up for these losses, New York still lost some ground in its percentage of the nation’s population. And immigration could slow precipitously with the economy’s woes, as a protracted credit slowdown will lessen the state’s need for Parisian investment bankers as well as Salvadoran construction workers. The governor could also have cited numbers from the Tax Foundation showing that New York’s state and local tax burden is a full one-fourth higher than the national average, and significantly higher than the burden in some of the states competing most fiercely with it for jobs and residents: Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, and most of the states in the new South.

Instead, Paterson cited a number of personal friends, all former New Yorkers, who have contacted him from out of state since his ascent to the governorship. “A friend from primary school, Randy San Antonio, told me he moved to Dallas 20 years ago,” Paterson began. “Another friend, Randy Watts, had moved to Reno. A friend from Syracuse, Marvin Lee Simons, said he’s working in Lower Manhattan. I said we should get together . . . and he said, ‘Well, I don’t live in New York. I live in western Pennsylvania.’ Jeff and Stacey Stackhouse wanted to start a business on Long Island. They moved two years ago–they’re trying to start their business in Charlotte, North Carolina. They couldn’t pay the taxes here.”

Which helps to explain one particularly bloated and malicious area of the state’s government:

Without question, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has the most advanced residency audit program in the nation. We would hazard to guess that the department, whether out of necessity — because so many taxpayers in the New York region have, at least allegedly, questionable residency issues — or sheer force of will, does more auditing of taxpayers on residency issues than does any other state, and perhaps more than all states combined.

I would hazard a guess that California, the other big blue parenthesis state, is pretty effective in this department as well.

(H/T: IP, who notes sadly, “Adrienne Barbeau not included” from this particular Escape.)