Start Pulling Your Weight, Upstate

  |  October 29, 2014
nys capitol

Here’s a recent tidbit from the New York Observer, calling out upstate New York for paying less in taxes than downstate but receiving more state funding. Writers Jillian Jorgensen and David Wallis explain:  “You haven’t been pulling your weight for a long, long time, and many experts on our relationship confirm this. Now, we know, we know, you’ve battled through some rough times: economic blight, IBM jilting Kingston for Westchester, Rochester-based Kodak never comprehending digital cameras and declaring bankruptcy, to name a few. It might have sunk a less resilient region. And we’ve been there for you. But you have been doing so much better lately. This may be tough to hear, but you really must start pulling your weight.” Later, the articles compares downstate to “boomer parents,” while upstate is “the millennial kid still living in the basement. And that’s not sexy.”

The piece goes on to quote some experts in the field of New York economics, including David Birdsell from Baruch College School of Public Affairs, who says that the boroughs subsidize the upstate area, “which the people up north do not understand or appreciate. They’re convinced it’s all us welfare slackers down here in the five boroughs.”

Upstate counties pay 28% of the taxes in NYS while receiving 42% of its funding. What they’re considering “upstate counties,” however, isn’t necessarily clear, although the piece does pinpoint Kingston, Albany, the Finger Lakes, Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, and the Southern Tier. So, basically everywhere in NYS north of the lower Hudson Valley. There are variables, of course, which the article acknowledges, like the fact that the biggest wage earners in the state live in NYC. Here’s what Kajal Lahiri, economics professor from University of Albany, says about it: “Income tax or the taxes out of bonuses form a huge part of the New York State budget, and then that gets distributed throughout the state—and in that sense, New York City supplements other parts of the state.”

So? What do you think? Is it time for upstate to take less in state funding? Pay more in taxes? Both? Let us know. Meanwhile, we hope NYC enjoys our fresh, clean drinking water and other natural resources.

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