Public employee union pensioners ducking income taxes
In a comment to a piece I wrote about New York state regulators nixing two badly needed natural gas pipelines, the writer noted a phenomenon that in my opinion should be brought to a quick and permanent halt. That many New Yorkers, like denizens of other northern states, like to retire in warmer climes is not news, and it is completely understandable. However, there is unique twist on this retirement gambit that most of us have probably not considered.
New York governments at all levels offer a fertile environment for public employee unions and, as a consequence, highly paid public servants whose union negotiators and colluding Democrat politicians have secured for them lucrative pension plans. Not only that, but these public servants can retire at relatively early ages after relatively short periods of service so that they have many years of life remaining to enjoy these taxpayer-funded perquisites.
It's that term taxpayer-funded that is the sore spot for the commenter, and not for the reason you might think – that his taxes fund generous retirements for public servants that most taxpayers can't afford. Nope, that's one of those "death and taxes" certainties it does no good to gripe about. No, the issue that has him ticked off is how so many of these public employee retirees take their lucrative pensions and move to Florida, where they have to pay no state income taxes. This further reduces the tax base in the state paying their tax-funded retirements, thus increasing the tax burden on still working New Yorkers who already pay more taxes than any other state.
Your first inclination might be to dismiss this complaint as just more taxpayer grousing, until you discover that government just happens to be the single largest employer in New York, meaning that this is a double-whammy problem that is only going to grow until that government wakes up and realizes it has a growing revenue problem. Huge numbers of huge pensions paid from tax coffers, but untaxed as income so as to return any of that income to those coffers, is going to hurt badly at some future point. Consider as well that when these public servants head south, it's not just their state pensions that go untaxed, but also their top-dollar Social Security checks, which, based on their other income, would surely be fully taxable. Also, how many will hang onto their New York homes? What about the possible loss to the state in property taxes? Consider as well that all the sales taxes generated by those very generous retirement incomes from sales of booze, boats, and beauty treatments are going to be collected in Florida, not in the state writing the checks.
Are you starting to get the picture here? A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money. And the state writing the checks gets zip.
Factor also into the equation the reality that many of these public servant retirement incomes are greater than those of many working New Yorkers, and you can better understand how this tax-ducking situation might grate as being a grossly unfair example of biting the hand that feeds you. However, despite the sting of ingratitude, it is unlikely that any blue state in thrall to the collective greed of public service unions, like New York, will take any steps to close this tax drain. The situation certainly serves to illustrate to ordinary citizens that public service nowadays is all about the bucks and not about any higher sense of loyalty to the state and the citizens who are paying your very generous retirement.
Liberals are truly talented when it comes to devising new means of taxing the working stiffs. Perhaps the New York liberals responsible for all these budget-busting pension programs and their counterparts in other blue states facing a similar situation should enact a non-resident pension tax on all these tax-paid tax avoiders to be withheld from their fat retirement checks.
Call it the Flight to Florida Surtax...