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April 28, 2003

Council launches new 'e-advocacy' campaign to protest proposals to raise income tax

The Business Council has launched a new "electronic advocacy" initiative designed to persuade lawmakers to reject pressure from unions and other tax-and-spend advocates to raise the state's personal income taxes.

The new "electronic protest" follows a similar campaign begun early this month by The Council, in collaboration with regional chambers of commerce, to oppose corporate tax increases.

Pressure for tax increases intensified after legislative leaders announced on April 15 that they had agreed to spend $1.9 billion more in 2003-2004 than Governor Pataki has proposed. The leaders did not say how they would pay for it, but several tax-hike proposals were reported under consideration.

The new e-protest allows visitors to The Council's Web page, www.bcnys.org, to automatically generate faxes to lawmakers opposing increases in the state personal income tax.

Letters are sent to Governor Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and visitors' own representatives in the Assembly and Senate.

"In all of the major areas of public spending-Medicaid, school aid, public employment, and public debt, for example-New York spends far more than the national average," a typical letter says. "That's why the legislative debate should focus on restraining spending, not on adding new spending commitments."

The letter notes that New Yorkers responding to independent polls "have consistently said they prefer reductions in government spending and services to higher taxes.

"These New Yorkers are right: Higher taxes are wrong for New York. Please do the right thing and reject increases in the personal income tax and focus instead on restraining spending."

Legislative leaders said they hoped to negotiate details of their planned spending increase quickly so the Legislature could consider a full budget by late April.

The Buffalo News said new spending would include $700 million for public schools, $225 million for higher education, $750 million for health-care programs, with additional funds for pork-barrel spending.

The Pataki administration called the planned new spending "outrageous" in light of the state's $11.5 billion budget shortfall.

The agreement increased the likelihood that the Legislature would negotiate a budget without the Governor, challenging him to veto the extra spending and raising the possibility of a legislative override of such a veto.

The agreement to increase spending and, in all likelihood, increase taxes comes amid strong evidence from polls showing that New Yorkers prefer reduced government activity to higher taxes.

Independent polls by Marist College, the Syracuse Post-Standard, and Quinnipiac College also show that New Yorkers strongly prefer cutting government spending and services to raising taxes.