31 March 2010

A possible taxpayer's revolt

I have just sent the following Letter to the Editors via e-mail:

Letters to the Editor
The Journal News
1 Gannett Drive
White Plains, NY 10604

To the Editors:

I recently blogged about the severe fiscal crisis in which the State of New York has found itself. Various state agencies' bills are not being paid and as a result, they are losing services. In particular, the Office of Mental Health is set to lose all of their administrative and support staff as of 1 April 2010 as the entirety of such staff is employed through a temporary employment agency, whose contract has not been renewed by the state.

There are rumors abound that state income tax refunds are being withheld until as long as the fall -- refunds that many people are relying upon. Local governments and school districts are still waiting for payments owed to them by NYS.

Under New York State law, a Writ of Mandamus can be issued under an Article 78 Proceeding to "compel a government agency or official to do something they are required by law to do."

I wonder if it would be possible for the County of Westchester, as well as other local municipalities and school districts to file an Article 78 proceeding on behalf of its citizens, compelling the State to release the funds owed to the local municipalities, school districts, and individual taxpayers. As a tax preparer, many of my clients are relying on their state refunds to help pay bills, and without such funds forthcoming in a timely fashion, it most certainly will negatively impact their credit ratings.

Perhaps the citizens of NYS could file an Article 78 Proceeding against all lawmakers in Albany, compelling them to pass a budget on 1 April 2010 (the start of New York's fiscal year), forcing the state to release funds owed to all those who are waiting for such monies to enter their coffers.

Or, perhaps even a class action lawsuit could be filed by the citizens of New York against the State for its fiscal irresponsibility.

Unfortunately, when elections come this fall, given the historic short-term memories of those who vote, I doubt very much that anyone will remember these goings-on and instead, voters will return most of the currently elected state officials to their thrones of power.

-Peter C. Frank a/k/a @NiteStar
[address removed]
Yonkers, New York
[contact information removed]

30 March 2010

New York State in Severe Fiscal Crisis

Every Sunday around midnight, for more than the past two years, I've logged into the New York State Unemployment Insurance web site to certify my weekly claim for unemployment benefits (my whopping $60/week!).

This past weekend, around midnight on Sunday, I logged into the web site without any difficulty. When I attempted to certify my weekly claim, as I had always done, I was advised that the site was experiencing technical difficulties and could not be access at that time. I tried, for the first time ever, to certify my weekly claim by calling in to the NYS Unemployment Office Certification number. I got up to the point where I choose the option to certify my weekly claim, and was advised that my request could not be completed at that time due to "technical difficulties."

When I am able to certify my weekly claim before noon on Sunday, I receive my money on my debit card (issued by NYS thru Chase bank) very late Monday night. If I complete my weekly unemployment certification between noon on Sunday and late Sunday evening, the money goes onto my card late Tuesday night. After late Sunday evening, the money goes onto my card late Wednesday night.

I repeatedly attempted to file my weekly certification for unemployment benefits at various points throughout Sunday, both online and via telephone. I was unable to do so until very very late Sunday night. I find it very convenient that New York State's fiscal operating budget expires tomorrow, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 and the State Legislature has failed--yet again--to pass a new budget (I think the last time a budget was passed by the New York State legislature on time was at some point before the birth of my now-deceased grandparents).

To make matters even more interesting (and dire), I was advised by a source (who must remain anonymous) about conversations that were overheard today while they were inside of a state-run mental health clinic (owned and operated by the NYS Office of Mental Health (NYS OMH)). Apparently, their (the office's) telephone service wasn't working properly because the telephone bill hadn't been paid. Other overheard conversations were that half the power in the building wasn't working because the electric bill hadn't been paid.

The final overheard conversation was that the entire administrative staff throughout the entire NYS OMH will no longer be employed as of 1 April 2010, as they are all temporary employees employed via an employment agency under contract with NYS, and as the state budget has yet to be passed (and a vote to extend financing of vital NYS operations also has failed to have passed), the contract will not be renewed and all administrative workers throughout the agency state-wide will be without a job. This also leaves the entire agency, on a state-wide basis, without any administrative workers; just the clinicians and doctors will be left to run things.

This paints a very pretty picture of the current fiscal condition that New York State is in. Forget getting your income tax refund from New York State any time in the near future; right now they can't even pay their own bills to keep their own offices running and pay the employees who have kept state government running for ages (thru the contractual employment of temporary employees via an employment agency, which--of course--obviates the need to provide such employees any benefits).

Given all of the above information, things do not look good at all for the fiscal state of the State of New York--and this is but a minute piece of the pie.