Here's a little ray of hope on today's storm-delayed state tax deadline day, for those millions of suicidal New Yorkers who are wondering how they ever managed to end up in the most highly taxed state in the union: You're not there any more. As of now, you live in the third-most highly taxed state in the union.
According to a new report by the Tax Foundation, New York's state and local tax burden is 13.8 percent of income. That's a full 0.2 percent less than second-place Maine and a whopping 0.3 percent below nation-leading Vermont. Are you happy yet?
The national average for state and local tax burdens is 11 percent, itself at a 25-year high. The lowest state is oil-rich Alaska, at 6.6 percent, but next lowest is New Hampshire, at 8 percent.
New York's tax burden fluctuates relative to other states, but it has been in the top three for 37 years, and ranked first or second from 1970 to 2005. Last year and again in 2007, the state fell to third place. It's better than being worst, but at that glacial rate of improvement, half the state will have moved to North Carolina by the time we reach the national average. The burden in North Carolina, by the way, is 11 percent -- dead on the national average.
This is largely a state problem, even though the burden described is the combination of state and local taxes. Much of New York's local tax bill is driven by state laws on labor and retirement, as well as a punishing Medicaid system. Local budgets can be bloated by partisan games and patronage abuses, but Albany is the 800-pound gorilla here.
Ah, well. We hope you did your taxes, and rendered unto Silver what is Silver's. And Bruno's. And Spitzer's. But as you nurse your tender bankbook, give thanks that things aren't worse than they are and offer a little prayer that next year, New York may move up to 47th on the list of states that give a hoot about their residents' money.