Jeffries and Flanagan on Albany's Budget Battle

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, New York State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, representing central Brooklyn (D-57) and New York State Senator John J. Flanagan (R-2) discussed the budget negotiations in Albany.

The first item to be served was not actually the budget, but Flanagan's bill to ban Salvia (Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus' herb of choice) from New York State. The bill, which passed the State Senate on Monday, would slap a $500 fine on anyone caught selling the herb, which Flanagan likened to Marijuana and blamed for the death of a Roosevelt Island boy who jumped to his death after smoking it. Jeffries agreed that Salvia was dangerous and was confident the Assembly would come to an agreement with the Senate regarding a ban (currently the Assembly version of the bill would only ban it for minors).

On to the budget negotiations. Jeffries is lobbying to renew and strengthen the city's rent stabilization laws sooner rather than later (they expire on June 15) and include them in the budget.

It will be a catastrophe for working families and middle class new yorkers if we allow the laws to expire or even continue to exist in their current weakened form.

Flanagan didn't say he was against renewing the laws—but he doesn't think that the budget is the right arena for rent stabilization negotiations because he is afraid they'll drag out the fight. For Flanagan, the most important thing is that the budget is passed on time to meet the April 1 deadline. Likewise, he doesn't consider the budget the right place for Cuomo to write in a property tax cap. The State Senator is afraid that without mandate relief, local municipalities will not be able to raise enough funds to pay bills for local services like schools or police.

The Governor's task force that came up with an 87 page report really didn't offer anything of genuine substance. We've taken very strong positions in the Senate that if we're going to have a property tax cap then there has to be meaningful, substantive, effective and immediate mandate relief.

The clearest point of contention between Flanagan and Jeffries is revealed in their positions on the good old millionaire's tax. They agree it would save about $706 million (a slim slice off the total $10 billion deficit the state needs to fill). For Jeffries, the money raised would with the tax could used to soften the other necessary cuts and furthermore, he said, the state tax structure would be more fair.

We need to have a progressive income tax structure in New York State. If we allow the millionaire's tax to lapse essentially a single individual making $20,000, a family of four making $40,000 would pay the same income tax rate as individuals making a million, five million or ten million. That's not fair in the state of New York.

For Flanagan, a millionaire's tax would be $706 million in more taxes that the state doesn't need. In his view, the state tax structure is already unfair.

If you look at the folks who are in that category, and most of us would certainly like to be in that category, they pay a whopping disproportionate percentage of the taxes right now so I think New Yorkers generally are over taxed.

So the $706 million dollar question is, what's "fair?"


John J. Flanagan and Hakeem Jeffries


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Comments [14]

Sondra Grossman from Brooklyn,NY

Ed Koch was on your show the other morning and he mentioned that state money already in very short supply should also be used for private and parochial school. this is outrageous. In my Brooklyn neighborhood,for example parochial schools have been proliferating enormously in the last few years. They already do not pay taxes,changing the tax basis of the whole qarea, but giving them state money would be criminal. We constantly bemoan the sorry state of our public schools and our mayor is considering laying off thousands of teachers,how can we give public funds to private schools. Every child in this country has the right to attend a public school. if they are not good, we must make them better. Should a parent choose to send a child to a private or parochial school,they must pay for it,not the rest of the citizens of this state who try and work for the betterment of all children.

Mar. 23 2011 10:08 PM
Barry from Bronx

The renewal and strengthening of the rent laws (including the repeal of vacancy destabilization) must be included in the governor's budget. It's estimated that over 300,000 affordable apartments have been lost to vacancy destabilization. The very future of our great city is at stake. NYC is a fabulous place to live and visit because of it's rich diversity. Without affordable housing the city we know and love will cease to exist.

Mar. 22 2011 11:58 AM
Sue from Manhattan

What really kills NYC is having fewer and fewer affordable homes. As long as vacancy destabilization is on the books, we will lose every vacant apartment from the stock of affordable housing. With no affordable housing, where will the secretaries, nurses, teachers and teacher aides, hospital technicians, actors and other artists, deli sandwich makers, and other people live? Sen. Flanagan and other Republicans claim that a tax on those who earn $1 million or more will not create jobs - but if there's no affordable housing, no one will be able to work here except those millionaires. And who will be left to make their dinner reservations?

Mar. 22 2011 11:19 AM
Stephan from Manhattan

THANK YOU listeners for your Salvia comments. It's so frustrating to hear these ignorant politicians pandering to fear and pontificating about things they know nothing about, trying to fix something that ain't broke and suggesting "remedies" that are far more dangerous than the issue they address. Salvia is nothing like marijuana, even less like LSD or mushrooms, and neither addictive nor potent nor dangerous (it is not potent enough to cause that poor kids' suicide). It's certainly less potent than whiskey... Let's stop this political grandstanding -- making this drug illegal may garner some votes, but it will mostly benefit the drug cartels. While this drug won't hurt people, the laws and resulting consequences certainly will.

Mar. 22 2011 10:58 AM
andrea from new jersey

Taxes: what do you have left to live on?
Highlight the amount a family has left to live on after taxes are paid, not just the amount of taxes paid.
A family earning $100,000 pays 30% and lives on $60,000.
A family earning $1,000,000 pays30% and lives on $600,000.

Mar. 22 2011 10:54 AM
Mark from E.Vil.

State Senator Flanagan said he heard that the majority of callers in the previous segment worried about jobs and immediately launched into a argument about the budget deficit. This is the "on message" approach that stifles discussion, debate, and reality.

Mar. 22 2011 10:45 AM

It was more than a few folks on wall street that caused this collapse. It's a systemic failure of the entire system from top to bottom!

Also, give up the drug crap! It's the least of our problems.

Mar. 22 2011 10:44 AM
Phoebe from Bushwick

The LAST thing we need is more ridiculous drug policy. I'm finally starting to see some sanity with decriminalization around the country, but there always seem to be these out of touch politicians who have no concept of the reality of drug use and would rather put people in prison than treat the symptoms that lead to drug use.

Mar. 22 2011 10:39 AM
Jack Spann from Astoria

Please, please, Mr. Jeffries and Mr Flanagan, stop your pandering and grandstanding. Persons commit suicide in NYC EVERY DAY. Marijuana does not drive people to suicide, not does salvia. Please drop your support of this ill-conceived bill outlawing salvia. It will only become rarer, more expensive, and create a new class of criminals.

Your vain attempts at imposing another prohibition on substances such as marijuana or salvia say nothing for your character. If you are REALLY concerned about the public health, work to stop alcohol addiction, the single greatest public health menace we face.

However, I suspect you are not really concerned with the public health, but rather with increasing your own profile with the public. It is a pity, and a foolish one at that.

Mar. 22 2011 10:39 AM

Assemblyman Jeffries, you lose all credibility when you make broad, unfounded statements like saying things like salvia and pot lead to illegal activities and harder drugs. this is totally unfounded and only serves to make people hysterical when there is no-need.

Mar. 22 2011 10:35 AM
MFan from BK NY

Flanagan has certainly been smoking something. Salvia is absolutely nothing like marijuana! Salvia is a shorter, more intense high, much more like mushrooms or something like that. Marijuana generally doesn't have that effect.

And I would bet dollars to donuts that Miley was smoking the illegal stuff, and her PR people invented the saliva story. We should be making marijuana legal, not creating another black market.

Mar. 22 2011 10:34 AM
andy from manhattan

outside of appearance- there is virtually no comparison between salvia and marijuana. and it is absurd tath that the one is illegal, and the other legal. because salvia is a mind-blowingly powerful disassociative that can easily be far from safe for use. unlike cannabis.

Mar. 22 2011 10:34 AM
Hazel from New Jersey

Did i just hear one of these guys say salvia is similiar to marijuana? What an idiot. Brian, you should've challenged that.

Mar. 22 2011 10:34 AM
Billy Gray from Greenpoint

Oy, vey! You know what else kills people? Alcohol. A lot more than salvia.

I thought Flanagan was a small government republican? Why are we criminalizing more drugs to put more people in jail and make nobody safer? At great cost to the rest of society?

What planet are both of these legislators on? If you want my vote, start studying the success of Portugal's decriminalization program, the only thing that really works.

Mar. 22 2011 10:32 AM

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