While satire is discouraged in this paper, we must admit the state budget deficits have reached absurd proportions. How to make up $12 billion in the next two years without reining in civil service pay, benefits and numbers remains problematic. But for such a preposterous dilemma, maybe it’s time to try preposterous solutions.
For instance, we might sell assets — the [New York state] Thruway, bridges, Jones Beach, the Adirondacks. Yet, in a worldwide recession, we might not get much from real estate. Even $15 for Manhattan might be too much, considering its debts and upkeep.
There are always excise taxes. Smokers have accepted the extra $2.75 a pack, about doubling their cost. Why not the same for beer? College kids have gotten a free ride for too long. Then again, drinking is bad for your health and addicting. That should add millions to the coffers.
I pass over a surtax on gasoline, because that already seems to be on the table. We already tax used tires. What remains untouched are insurance premiums. Imagine the fortune possible from one of those little niggling telephone bill taxes added to every insurance policy. Call it the pothole tax. Leave them laughing.
And if the bottle law worked for soft drinks, why not a nickel on every glass, tin and plastic container of food? Heaven knows, it costs plenty to recycle that garbage. And it would not be a tax on food, just on the messenger. And think of how happy would be the growing number of paupers when they see they can add to their income just by Dumpster diving.
Public toilets could gather donations that would enhance the public treasury. And maybe even meters on home toilets registering each flush.
Growing losses to the till have been caused by those primitives installing wood and pellet stoves to beat the high cost of fuel and taxes. Those bootleggers deserve to be punished, as well, at the market. Ecologists would heartily support this measure.
We might even confiscate the property and bank accounts of those traitors caught trying to escape the state. After all those years of nurturing, educating and protecting, such deserters deserve no less. Especially reprehensible would be those heading to the free state of New Hampshire, where they are outlawing taxes. Don’t they realize that taxes are a penance from God to purge our guilt? The heathen.
Illinois’ notorious Gov. Rod Blagojevich offers another cost-cutting idea. In repaying contributions from a grain company, it is alleged he changed the menu in prisons from meat entrees to soy products — soy cheese, soy scrambled eggs, soy burgers and soy coffee. Health issues ensued, among them hunger strikes.
Yet, think of the savings if New York followed this lead in not only prisons but also for school lunches. It might even double as an obesity buster.
And on further reflection on our beleaguered prisons, why not lure out-of-state prisoners to our gray walls? The income from such warehousing could be enormous. And to make room for those tourists, we could outsource our own convicts — say, ship them to China, where per diem would be far less. And the added benefit, our exported cons could get job training in those factories which supply all of our consumer goods.
We have to realize where we live — not in some bankrupt state but in a global nation. Novel solutions to old puzzles beckon.
Why, we could even declare bankruptcy like some bleeding auto company and have the judge rip up all of those excruciating civil service/teachers union contracts. We could pay off our debts at a dime on the dollar. Then, we could either go back to business as usual or sell the entire state to some foreign country. China would be a likely bidder so as to rid itself of a population surplus. Arab oil sheiks might want to settle some of their impoverished (and rebellious) brothers along the Hudson.
It would require a Web site to post all of the potential answers — sell Senate seats, dismantle the New York Senate, legislate with three men in a room and downsize the rest, peddle the Empire State Plaza, sell off every one of the state universities and community colleges, sue distant coal-firing plants for the acid rain we have to clean up. Being New Yorkers, we sublimely believe that what man hath created, man can destroy. Actually, we have proved that indisputedly.
All of which is meant humbly to ensure that New York state pays as it goes and continues to provide the best for its public employees, at work and in retirement.
David Childs lives in Johnstown. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.