NY should legalize sports betting, weed to address fiscal crisis

Yankees president Randy Levine laid out a sweeping plan to help New York City’s cash-starved government weather the pandemic-fueled fiscal crisis on Thursday — including legalizing sports betting and marijuana and imposing a new tax on wealthy hedge fund investors to generate revenues.

But Levine, a Republican who served as deputy mayor and labor chief under former mayor Rudy Giuliani, also said deep cuts in government spending and shedding of municipal jobs are necessary in his column published in Empire Report.

“The New York City mayoral election is less than a year from now. The next mayor will have to deal with this crisis. Thus far, I have not seen any ideas or programs that I believe will work, so allow me to try to be helpful and offer a few suggestions,” Levine said.

The Yankees mogul said given how severely the coronavirus outbreak has damaged New York’s economy and tax base, state and city officials can no longer avoid leaving on the table the millions of dollars that would be generated by legalizing mobile sports betting and pot sales.

“The City needs the State’s help to push for and pass laws that other states are already using to pay for budget shortfalls. These include Mobile Sports Betting and, possibly, Marijuana use laws,” Levine opined.

“Since New Jersey has already passed both, the spillover has already impacted New York.”

Sports fans line up to make bets on opening day of FanDuel Sportsbook sports betting at the Meadowlands Raceway in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 2018.
Sports fans line up to make bets on opening day of FanDuel Sportsbook sports betting at the Meadowlands Raceway in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 2018.
Helayne Seidman

Mobile sports betting has been a cash cow for New Jersey coffers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers have debated — but have not approved — sports betting from mobile devices such as smartphones in New York.

In a proposal that will have “tax the rich” activists cheering, Levine proposes a new tax on rich financiers and hedge fund investors for investment income that exceeds $15 million.

He said these financiers pay a lower tax rate because the money they make is treated as investment income rather than wages, which are taxed at a higher income tax rate.

“For any amount over $15 million per year, that amount should be taxed at the highest individual wage earner rates. This is fair as it provides a $15 million per year cushion that will not derail the motivation to invest, and will raise hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues. At $15 million per year, they will also have plenty of money available for charitable donations,” Levine said.

He opposed boosting any other taxes that could encourage taxpayers to flee the city.

To help small businesses crushed by the pandemic, Levine also recommended cutting the commercial rent tax.

Elsewhere Levine proposed:

— Cut non-personnel spending in city agencies’ spending by 25 percent and keep the reductions in place for four years.

— Shrink the workforce by offering a severance package to encourage thousands of employees to voluntarily leave. Any vacancies would be filled by existing employees, not new hires, to keep the headcount down.

— Negotiate work rule changes with municipal unions to save money and suspend or cancel non-essential consultant contracts.

— Create a state-approved “Bring New York City Back” bonds program that would be used to help keep the city afloat as it transitions to a smaller government while earmarking some of the borrowed funds to aid small businesses such as restaurants and retail merchants.

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Bernard Tirado

Bernard Tirado

Bernard Tirado is the founder of Newzinto and he writes for the Health & Covid 19 section of Newzinto.

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