The Speaker spoke about a diverse city in serious need of financial recalibration, as joblessness is on the rise and the government, at all levels, is inadequately providing for its residents. Among the many solutions she proposed were new tax structures, support for small businesses, cutbacks to unnecessary government spending, and the creation of a new “.nyc” web address.
“From the fiscal crisis of the 70s, to the dark days after September 11, we have always stood together and used our collective strength to rebuild,” said Quinn. “We are going to need every ounce of that strength to get through the tough times ahead.”
She explained that much of the city’s strength comes from its small business sector, and that even though Wall Street and the financial markets provide a large portion of the city’s revenue, it is family-owned stores and manufacturers that are the unsung backbone of its economy.
“They are the businesses and the people that keep our neighborhoods working and our city running,” said Quinn. “Most of us never really give them much thought, until one day we walk by our local deli and discover it’s been replaced by a bank chain, or yet another vacant storefront.”
In order to assist these businesses, the speaker, working with council members Simcha Felder and Helen Sears, devised a plan to streamline the application process by combining the papers required from a variety of city agencies to start a new business into one single, online application.
She also proposed an amnesty for small businesses who have unpaid fines for failing to follow city regulations. If the business can show that the initial violation has been corrected, they will be allowed to waive their late fees and develop a reasonable payment plan.
To further assist these small businesses and attract new ones, she rejected any increase to the existing sales tax and announced her intention to help create an aggressive new marketing campaign that would promote city businesses.
Piggybacking on an issue that was a major topic of the recent presidential election, Quinn expressed her desire to increase the amount of taxes paid by wealthier New Yorkers.
“We won’t tax the middle-class a penny more, but we will ask the city’s top 4 percent - those families making over $300,000 a year - to kick in a little extra,” she said. “We’ll stagger the increases, so the lucky few with incomes over a million dollars will pay the most. We’re not afraid to ask those who’ve gotten the most from New York City to give a little back when times get tough.”
While the subject of a progressive tax was a national topic last year, Speaker Quinn would like to take it a step further and provide more relief for New Yorkers on the other end of the economic spectrum.
“224,000 New York households currently pay no federal or state income tax, because their earnings are so low,” Quinn said. “Yet New York City still taxes them. So let’s eliminate city income taxes for those families making less than $45,000 a year.”
She estimated that this proposal would save these families approximately $320 each year.
The most unexpected announcement in Quinn’s State of the City address was that New York City businesses would now be able to purchase “.nyc” web domains. The plan would allow city businesses to create an inexpensive, locally based presence on the Internet while creating new revenue for the city.
“A local business won’t have to outbid a guy in Kansas to get ‘Tonyspizza.com.’ They’ll be able to get ‘tonyspizza.nyc,’ a name associated with the greatest city –and home of the greatest pizza- in the world,” Quinn said. “Most importantly, we expect to generate millions of dollars a year through the sale of web addresses ending in .nyc.”
In addition to her fiscal proposal, Quinn emphasized keeping the streets safe and bringing more medical and technology jobs to the city.
“By using what’s already available in innovative ways, we can foster growth even in the midst of this recession,” she said. “We won’t use lack of money as an excuse for inaction.”