Saratoga Springs crowd protests bank tax refund

Seventy-year-old Andy McPherson has been trying for 14 months to get a special loan from Bank of Ame

Seventy-year-old Andy McPherson has been trying for 14 months to get a special loan from Bank of America to bring down the mortgage payment on his Galway home.

“They’re finding all kinds of excuses not to [approve it],” said McPherson, who was one of about 50 people who gathered downtown Monday afternoon to protest Bank of America getting a $1.9 billion tax refund last year, according to MoveOn, a liberal public policy advocacy group.

“These guys aren’t paying their fair share,” McPherson said.

MoveOn organized tax day protests at large corporations throughout the country, including Bank of America, GE, Google, BP, Amazon, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Boeing, ExxonMobil, FedEx, Goldman Sachs and Chase.

They did not picket at any local GE locations.

Spokesmen from two of those companies said they are paying their share of taxes.

In Saratoga Springs, protesters held signs with slogans like, “I paid my taxes; have you?” and “Make them pay.”

People took turns with the megaphone, shouting speeches and then the group started with chants. Some people driving by honked their horns in solidarity.

“This is the 21st century of the robber barons,” said David LaCarte of Gansevoort.

The issue was compelling enough that Jim Lestrange of Saratoga Springs decided to come out for it.

“This is my first demonstration that I’ve ever participated in, but I’m fed up,” he said. “The big corporations and the banks are the terrorists.”

Al Ormsby of Saratoga Springs, who is active with the local MoveOn contingent, said about 100 people signed up to picket Bank of America at State and Pearl streets in Albany.

Big corporations get a break because they give so much in campaign contributions to politicians that the businesses can make the laws, Ormsby said.

And banks benefitted from the federal financial bailout.

“I think people understand the kind of things banks do,” Ormsby said.

Corporate income tax is 35 percent, but companies still get refunds, he said. And there’s a bill in Congress to lower the corporate income tax to 25 percent.

“The groups that are paying no taxes at 35 percent; what does a tax of 25 percent mean?” Ormsby asked.

A Bank of America regional spokesman said the bank has paid more taxes in the last 10 years than any other corporation.

In 2010, it declared a loss and in 2009 invested in affordable housing and invested in tax-exempt debt for state and local governments, said T.J. Crawford, Northeast spokesman for Bank of America.

“The individuals behind this protest are entitled to their own opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own set of facts,” Crawford said.

In 2010, the bank paid more than $2 billion in state and local taxes, including property and sales taxes, Crawford added.

GE paid “significant” federal income tax last year for prior years, said spokesman Tom Schwendler, and also paid about $1 billion in state, local and other federal taxes last year.

The company’s 2010 federal income tax liability will be small, Schwendler said.

“When GE files its 2010 tax return in September, it is expected the company will have a small tax liability — a liability that is so low because of the billions of dollars GE Capital lost during the financial crisis,” he said. “We expect that the tax rate will be much higher in 2011 as GE Capital recovers.”

While the protesters mainly stayed outside the bank in Saratoga Springs on Monday, a small group of them briefly walked inside about 12:30 p.m.

An employee told them to leave or he’d call police, Lestrange said.

A few minutes later, a city police officer showed up and went inside.

The protesters did get a demonstration permit from the city, and left after about an hour to visit U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson’s office on Broadway.

Categories: Schenectady County

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