When You’re Raised Here, You Should Be Able To Afford To Stay Here

Legislative Column by Assemblyman Ed Ra (21st Assembly District)
February 11, 2011

A recent survey by Newsday reported that 64 percent of Long Island residents ages 18 to 34 said they plan to leave in the next five years. Seventy-five percent of those polled called the loss of younger residents a serious problem. This survey comes at a very pivotal time for our state and local economy as we begin the long road to fiscal recovery. It’s time for New York to realize: when you’re raised here, you should be able to afford to stay here.

I have been a lifelong resident of Franklin Square, a place my wife and I still call home; every Long Islander should enjoy the same opportunity to live and work in the community they love. But we must act to make Long Island affordable for individuals and young families.

There are a number of ways in which New York can right the ship in order to prevent more young residents from fleeing. The most recent example of New York legislating against these residents is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) payroll tax. This onerous levy, 34 cents for every $100 of an employee’s wages, was imposed on every Long Island business and nonprofit during the agency's 2009 bailout, continues to add to the sky-high cost of living and doing business in our region.

The tax levied on these businesses pushes employers to spike prices on consumer goods, which hit our younger residents the hardest. At the same time, many of these same job creators can only pass on higher costs to consumers for so long before they are simply taxed into bankruptcy or a friendlier business climate.

In addition to taxes, the MTA also imposes egregious fare hikes on a regular basis. For a monthly pass, the cost of public transportation in the New York City metro area is 20 percent higher than Philadelphia’s, 25 percent higher than Los Angeles’s, and over 50 percent higher than Boston’s. The cost of public transportation alone is another burdensome fee that hits our younger residents hard, especially when they are working to get on their feet.

New York needs to recognize that out-of-control taxation, a ballooning deficit, and a failure to encourage those in the private sector to create jobs are all fueling an exodus from our state. Tackling these problems effectively requires an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses in our economy as a whole, rather than just piecemeal solutions.

There are both short-term and long-term solutions to battling this exodus. Right now, New York State needs to push for a state-payroll-tax moratorium for residents under the age of 30 for their first two years of full-time, salaried work. The gains will be reflected in fatter bi-weekly paychecks. Combine that with eliminating the MTA payroll tax, and these are short-term goals we can immediately implement to ease young workers’ burdens.

In the long-term, New York must make a commitment to becoming more business-friendly. By offering businesses the fewest economic distortions through a much simpler, pro-growth tax system with a broad base and low rates, we can create more opportunities to hire young people. Evaluation of our state payroll and sales taxes is a must, so that we can move forward with a plan which allows our younger generation to plan, too.

Our state needs to emphasize better policies that keep a larger share of post-graduates and young professionals here. We need more focus on providing incentives and opportunities, coupled with eliminating burdensome regulations on our businesses, in order to ensure that our communities thrive and remain healthy for generations to come.

I’m ready to work with my colleagues to create a sustainable, pro-growth private sector economy by reversing detrimental regulations and abolishing onerous taxes like the MTA payroll tax. Let’s keep New York State open for our younger residents today.