Poll Question results & the Sunday’s best

Who’s right on the budget — David Paterson who says the 2009-2010 nearly holds spending flat or Tom DiNapoli who says it creates “an unsustainable level of spending”? Sixty percent of those who voted in last week’s Poll Question think DiNapoli’s picture of reality is closer to the truth; only 3 percent support the governor while 30 percent of those who voted think both men have it wrong.

We threw in a trick choice in last weeks’ poll allowing people to vote that both men are right — 7 percent of the voters picked that implausible option.

This week we’re breaking tradition to ask about a federal topic — taxing employer paid medical benefits. John McCain suggested it would have to be done in order to provide health coverage to the uninsured. Barack Obama disagreed, but it’s turning out that many Democrats in Congress see no other way to pay the freight on the $1.2 trillion health care reform package under consideration.

What’s the impact on the average working person? It comes to around $750 per person. There are approximately 177 million people who receive health insurance from their emloyers and the tax is projected to bring in $133 billion a year. Before you vote on the poll question ask yourself whether you’re ready to pay an extra $750 in taxes to reform our health care system.

If you haven’t read them yet, take a look at Jay Gallagher’s column “Cutting taxes not as easy as it sounds,” and the Times Union’s incitefull editorial on New York’s student loan program NYHELPS.

Gallagher explains why the governor and many legislators concurred with Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to reduce the number of taxing jurisdictions in NYS — a topic the Empire Page has explored in a number of interviews in its Improving New York section and which I’ve endorsed in my blog. The concept sounds great until people learn that it means merging their school district with another or dissolving their village and turning the job of providing services over to the town. But Gallagher points out that the powers that be in Albany love it because it’s easy for them to endorse a policy that will not require them to make hard decisions.

In a word, reducing the number of governmental jurisdictions is necessary, but not sufficient. What else is necessary is that the governor and Legislature tackle unfunded mandates, escalating property taxes, public employee pension obligations, overlapping jurisdictions, duplication of responsibilities, feather-bedding and the rest of the problems that are contributing to citizens a lot less wealthy than Tom Golisano moving out of the state as fast as they can.

The Times Union dissects New York’s desire to help students borrow money to pay for the increasingly out-of-sight cost of higher education. NYHELPS contains a number of flaws, including a lack of the protections found in federal loan programs and variable rates which can top out at 25% a year. In its haste to help students, New York seems to have lost site of the goal and created a program that may harm as many as it helps.

Re: The Excelsior Files: The usual Monday morning listing of upcoming events will be published on Tuesday this week as a result of the holiday.

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