“Taxation without representation” was a rallying cry during the American Revolution, but it seems that in 2018 seemingly unpatriotic taxation is still the norm — at least in New York state. Although we have representation, the tax code in New York is detrimental to economic progress and population growth in the state.
As of last October, New York ranked 49th on the list published by the Tax Foundation for overall business competitiveness based on its tax structure for the fourth year in a row. This is predominantly due to poor ratings in sales, property and income tax categories. When your income, property and spending is taxed at such a high rate, what incentive is there to stay and invest in the state? It is no wonder that people, especially college graduates, are leaving the state in droves.
With such burdensome taxes and a lack of economic opportunity, it is no wonder the state’s population continues to decline. In fact, of New York state’s 62 counties, 46 witnessed population loss since 2010. Specifically, Broome County is among the counties with the greatest population loss.
It cannot be a coincidence that New York continues to be one of the worst states in which to do business, and also a state that witnesses a continuous population decline. Shouldn’t the Empire State be innovating and flourishing? New York state, a staple of the U.S. economy and home of New York City — often referred to as the world’s capital — should be a positive model for the rest of the country. Instead, New York state seems to be a model of exactly what not to do.
While most states grow in population, New York is one of the eight states that continues to shrink in population. Granted, without New York City, there would be little economic activity in New York state at all. The greater New York City area generates 86 percent of the job growth in New York state.
Additionally, the majority of the tax revenue comes from downstate, but given its population and wealth, that is not surprising. The city is largely responsible for New York state having the highest tax rates on top incomes, which economically stagnates the growth of New York state at large, which is subjected to that same tax model despite lacking the same dynamic population and capital.
At large, New York state has simply lost its luster, and as a Binghamton University student, it is even more evident. When I talk to my friends about post-graduation plans, it seems that virtually everyone wants to leave the state to go somewhere with more opportunity, lower taxes and thus, more freedom. The net migration of college graduates under the age of 40 out of New York is around 2 percent, despite being a state that produces some of the most college graduates. New York state is experiencing not only population drain, but also a brain drain, and it is time it is fairly confronted.
New York state has attempted to combat the problem through the Excelsior Scholarship program, which awards qualifying families in the state free tuition to SUNY and CUNY schools. However, the fine print to accepting this program is agreeing to stay and find employment in New York state after graduation. It is as if the state is holding students’ education hostage, forcing graduates to stay in the state and denying them opportunities elsewhere.
The time of statewide tax reform is long overdue as the people of New York, especially upstate, are crushed with taxes being levied and almost exclusively used in downstate areas. George Washington dubbed New York the Empire State for a reason, and it is reasonable to assume the empire he was envisioning wasn’t one based on absurd taxation on people’s income, property and investments.
Gunnar Jurgensen is a junior majoring in political science.