Golisano, who owns payroll company
Paychex, the Buffalo Sabres hockey team, and two handsful of other
businesses, said it was costing him too much money to be a New Yorker.
So he announced that he was changing his legal residence to his Naples,
Fla., mansion in order to avoid paying New York state the $5 million
annually the tax code requires. In Florida, income and property tax
rates are capped, and snowstorms are prohibited.
His decision was announced at home and
in a visit to Albany during which he blamed Gov. Paterson for forcing
him to leave the place and the people he loves. It is sad to note that
no one informed him of a much less painful alternative. If he had to
leave New York, and all he holds dear, including his beloved Sabres, he
could have toddled across Vermont and nested in scenic New Hampshire,
another state without an income tax. New Hampshire even has some nice
beachfront property, available at a pretty good price right now.
Golisano can move to Florida and take
his tax money with him—that’s his right. What he can’t do is make the
move and continue to tell us how much he loves New York. If he loves
New York, he is a jealous and controlling lover indeed. First he spends
tens of millions trying to become governor. Then he puts millions into
trying to elect a state Legislature more to his liking. When the newly
Democratic state Senate doesn’t give him a budget to his liking—that
is, they don’t lower his taxes—he decides to cut and run, abandoning
New York when, arguably, we need him most.
Worse yet, Golisano stood in front of
the state capital and said that he wished he had 100,000 more New
Yorkers who would join him in jumping ship. Fortunately most of them
were at work trying to make ends meet while he was parading about.
This kind of conditional loyalty is the
logical end of the Reagan Revolution, which taught people to view
citizenship as something more akin to being a shareholder, in which you
make an investment and expect a return. Prior to that, the notion of
citizenship was more like that of family, in which relationships are
governed not by mutual gain alone, but by bonds of compassion and
concern, woven together by mutual self-interest.
But no more. It seems the public has
gotten so used to billionaires singing “Love for Sale” that such
abandonment of a struggling state is met not with a pie in the face,
but with a collective shrug. Politicians lambast Carrier and Magna for
pulling out on us, but Golisano’s departure elicits only deference.
Golisano still intends to run his
“Responsible New York” political action committee from exile in
Florida, rendering the organization’s name instantly oxymoronic.
“Responsible New York,” by the way, has the strangest definition of
“special interest groups” that you will ever see; it lists “health
care” and “nurses” as among those vying to ruin the state.
You can’t be a responsible New Yorker by
remote control. I guess it won’t be too long until we begin to hear
about Responsible Florida. And if the people of Florida decide to raise
their educational standards and levy the requisite taxes, I suppose,
now that loyalty is for sale, Golisano will decamp for Bermuda.
If you’re with us, Tom, you’re with us.
You have the wherewithal to influence the political process beyond what
all of our combined voices can hope to acheive. You have figured out
how to turn upstate New York into a cash cow. But you chose to turn
your back to preserve money—someone has to say it—that you don’t need
in the first place.
There will be those who say that
Golisano has given a lot to charity. Well, let’s look at the numbers.
Last year the Golisano Foundation gave away $1.16 million to a variety
of charities, including our children’s hospital. Much appreciated. Then
he pulled out $5 million in tax money, which is a drop in the bucket
for a gazillionaire like him. You do the math.
That leaves us with the question of what
to do with six stories of tribute to him at the long-awaited Children’s
Hospital. At a minimum, we should finally learn the lesson about naming
buildings. The first rule of naming public buildings is that the person
whose name being engraved in marble should at least have the decency to
be dead. Exhibit A: Joe Bruno. The now-indicted former head of the New
York state Senate has a stadium named after him in his home district in
Rensselaer County. Bad idea.
How would you feel about having your
teenage daughter taking dance classes at the Eliot Spitzer Youth
Center? It could have happened, you know. There oughta be a law, or at
least a custom, to keep us from naming things after people while they
are still breathing and hence, capable of embarrassing themselves and,
by association, the rest of us.
Now we will forever have to live with
the Golisano Children’s Hospital, the man who left us, taking his ball
to a warmer court because we didn’t let him make the rules. Bad example
for the kids—to have the place where they come to fight for their
lives, named after a quitter.