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Now you see me: Protesters dress as corporate tax ghosts to call for tax-loophole closure.

Busting the Budget-Busting Ghosts

On June 9, members of Better Choice For New York, a group that includes, among others, members of the Public Employees Federation, Citizen Action, the Hunger Action Network of New York State, Housing Works, the Fiscal Policy Institute, and the Statewide Emergency Network for Social and Economic Security, rallied outside the state Capitol. Some were dressed as ghosts, representing the multinational corporations that avoid paying more than $1 billion dollars in state taxes each year by drifting, like ghosts, through tax loopholes. Other members of the coalition were dressed as Ghostbusters, who acted out a confrontation with the corporate ghosts to expose their tax policies.

The event was designed to highlight the need for legislators to close tax loopholes used by multinational corporations. These loopholes cause budget problems for New York state, which is currently facing an approximately $5 billion deficit.

The coalition is accusing corporations like United Parcel Service, General Electric, Wal-Mart and Eastman Kodak of not only failing to pay their share of state taxes, but also failing to report how much they actually paid in New York state corporate income taxes.

These corporate-tax loopholes include the abuse of Empire Zones, which are designed to increase economic development in an area in exchange for tax breaks. But companies that locate in Empire Zones are often accused of falling short of their promise to create jobs, while still benefiting financially from the tax breaks.

Another problem with corporate taxes is the creation of “nowhere income,” which, according to the coalition’s Web site, is when corporations do not pay taxes “on profits attributable to sales made in states in which they do not have a physical presence.”

The rally included speeches by Assemblymen James Brennan (D-Brooklyn), Scott Stringer (D-Manhattan), and Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), as well as skits and a Q & A session.

Ron Deutsch of the Statewide Emergency Network for Social and Economic Security, who was dressed as one of the rally’s Ghostbusters, said that they wanted to bring many issues to the public’s, and specifically legislators’, attention.

“We would like to see corporations engage in what is called combined reporting so that they report to the state and federal government on one return how much they are paying in federal and state taxes. Right now they are not required to do that, though many other states do require it,” he said.

In states that use combined reporting, corporations are prevented from moving income to other states where their income is not taxable.

Those at the rally hoped that legislators would follow the coalition’s lead on the matter. “We should be putting our feet down and demanding that these corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” said Denyce Duncan Lacy, spokeswoman for the Public Employees Federation. “To do that, they have to pass legislation to close these huge tax loopholes. If they do that, then we wouldn’t have as much red ink in the state budget as we do now.

—Katharine Jones

Try, Try Again

After rejecting the school board’s initial budget proposal, voters throughout the city of Albany will offer their final say over the district’s budget for the coming year this Tuesday (June 22).

On May 18, approximately 4,500 of the city’s roughly 60,000 registered voters turned out to vote on the school board’s initial budget proposal of $147.9 million dollars, which would have brought a tax rate increase of approximately 10 percent. Voters said no to that budget, by a count of 2,454 to 2,006.

Hoping to avoid staff layoffs and program cuts, the school board has assembled a second proposal, a $145.3 million budget that dips into reserve funds to keep the tax rate increase to 5.9 percent. The vote will be held Tuesday, June 22, from 7 AM to 9 PM at polling places throughout the city.

Should voters reject the board’s final proposal, the district would be forced to fall back on a contingency budget, which by state law mandates a 2-percent increase over the previous year’s budget. That would mean a budget that weighs in at $142.8 million, which according to the district’s Web site would lead to laying off “34 teachers, 50 support staff, or more likely a combination of the two along with four administrators (vice principals, principals, directors).”

For more information on the budget or polling places, voters can visit the district’s Web site,, or call the district’s main offices at 462-7100.

—Travis Durfee

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