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A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

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Pack the City, We’re Moving!
Each year, one Yonkers leaves New York for friendlier climes.
11 February 2009

I’m thinking we should move to South Carolina. No, not me and the family. The whole city of Yonkers.

In June 2008, longtime Yonkers manufacturer Stewart EFI left the city, taking with it a few hundred manufacturing jobs. Then, a few weeks ago, the Precision Valve Corporation, one of Yonkers’s largest employers and a company founded in the city, announced that it was moving to the Palmetto State. Precision Valve vice president Bob Reto explained the relocation delicately: “The decision was driven by the need to operate under the greater efficiencies afforded in South Carolina.” Mayor Phil Amicone, by contrast, didn’t mince words: Yonkers “could not surmount the costly economics of doing business in New York State.”

Overall per-capita government spending in New York State is now the fourth-highest in the nation—nearly 50 percent above the national average. That’s a problem in good times; in the current economic climate, it’s a disaster. Examples of waste abound. New York spends more per pupil on education than any other state, yet it ranks near the bottom third in most measurements of student performance. Likewise, New York spends double the national average on Medicaid, yet lags badly in the quality of its health care.

The cash to fund this waste, of course, comes out of New York taxpayers’ pockets. When I ran for the New York State Senate last year, I’d remind audiences that here in Westchester, we live in the highest-taxed county in the highest-taxed state in the nation. New York’s personal-income and real-estate taxes are the highest in the country, while its business taxes are the second-highest. As a result, New York has seen a steady emigration of citizens and employers for years. In the current downturn, that emigration could turn into a stampede.

Yet as unchecked spending and a crushing tax burden destroy the Empire State, what solutions do we hear from our elected leaders in Albany? Governor David Paterson, while proposing token spending cuts, has called for over $3 billion in new “revenue actions.” Under his proposals, New Yorkers can expect to pay more for everything from haircuts to iTunes downloads to soda pop. Ever the populist, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proposes that we “tax the rich”—or at least those he defines as such. What the Speaker really means is: Let’s tax the people who start and own businesses, create jobs, and pay salaries. Of course, the “rich” have a simple solution to tax increases: move to South Carolina, where there are “greater efficiencies” in doing business.

Precision Valve was founded by Bob Abplanalp, the Bronx-born son of an immigrant machine-shop owner. After building his business, Abplanalp joined other businessmen in founding the Hudson Valley Bank, also in Yonkers. Today, the Hudson Valley Bank is one of those increasingly rare independent banks focused on serving their local communities. For decades, Abplanalp and his family quietly but generously supported countless local charities, from the Yonkers Boy Scouts to a shelter for pregnant women. In the mid-1970s, Abplanalp all but single-handedly saved his old high school, Fordham Prep, as it struggled to keep its doors open. Today, Fordham Prep thrives, teaching a new generation of children, many the sons of immigrants themselves. Such are the “rich” who, Silver insists, must pay their “fair” share by turning their money over to the barons of Albany.

Instead of figuring out how to dig deeper into our pockets, New York leaders need to slash taxes, halt decades of wasteful spending, and make the state an attractive place to do business again. The current crisis demands a hard look at every line in New York’s bloated budget and dramatic cuts in unnecessary, mismanaged, and outdated programs. Likewise, Albany must eliminate the countless mandates, laws, and regulations that increase burdensome taxation and create additional inefficiency in local government.

As businesses like Precision Valve leave Yonkers, it’s worth remembering that over the last several years, New York has seen a net loss of close to 200,000 residents annually. Yonkers is, coincidentally, a city of approximately 200,000. What I suggested jokingly is, in fact, already happening: every year, Yonkers—or its equivalent in population, anyway—abandons New York.

John M. Murtagh, an attorney, is presently serving his second term as a member of the city council in Yonkers, New York State’s fourth-largest city.

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