Edmond J McMahon: The New York Difference: How (if not why) Our Local Governments Spend More

CRP 2015 Spring Colloquium Series

Edmund J. McMahon is president of the Empire Center for Public Policy, Inc., a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank based in Albany, New York. McMahon's professional background includes more than 30 years as an Albany-based writer and policy analyst in both the private and public sectors. As chief fiscal advisor to the state Assembly Minority (Republican) Conference in the early 1990s, he drafted a personal income tax reform plan that would become the basis for historic tax cuts enacted under Governor George E. Pataki.

McMahon is a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, which he joined in June 2000. In January 2005, he founded the Institute's Albany-based Empire Center project, which became a fully independent organization with 501c3 tax-exempt status in 2013. A graduate of Villanova University, McMahon began his career as a journalist in the lower Hudson Valley and in Albany.


It's no secret that New Yorkers pay some of the highest local taxes in the country. But why? Governor Andrew Cuomo has suggested that answer lies in New York's sheer number of local government entities. "Our local property taxes are high because we have 10,500 local governments," he repeatedly has said.

In fact, in its authoritative annual comparison of localities in all 50 states, the U.S. Census Bureau counts 3,400 local governments in New York, less than one-third the amount frequently cited by the governor. But putting that number aside, questions remain: Since local taxes are mainly a function of local spending levels, to what extent do New York local governments differ from those of counties, municipalities and school districts in other states? Edmund J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy will offer some answers based on preliminary 2012 Census of Governments data.

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