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Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 98, no. 2528: Articles]: August 26, 1916

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AND NEW YORK, AUGUST 26,- 1916 REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON LEGISLATION Digest of Result of Past Session at Albany on Matters Affecting Real Estate FOLLOWING are excerpts from the report of the Committee on Legisla¬ tion of the Citizens' Union, for the ses¬ sion of 1916. Albert S. Bard is the chairman of the committee and W. E. Youker is the Secretary and Albany rep¬ resentative: The Legislature of 1915 authorized a special committee to study the subject of taxation. The question submitted to this committee by the Legislature was: "How can the State most effectually reach all property which should be subjected to taxation and avoid conflict and duplica¬ tion of taxation on the same property?" Senator Mills was made chairman of the committee. It held hearings throughout the state and submitted a valuable report on the general subject of taxation, in this and other states and countries. Tax on Personal Property. Its principal recommendations were that the present tax on personal property should be abolished; that the taxation of general business corpora:tions on a divi¬ dend-capital-stock basis should be abol¬ ished, and that an income tax on in¬ dividuals and general business and manu¬ facturing corporations should be im¬ posed. An income tax bill, to carry out the recommendations of the committee, was introduced by Senator Mills, but it ' was not advanced by the Legislature. The principal reason given for lack of support in the Legislature was that, from the standpoint of the majority party, it was politically undesirable to urge any important tax legislation this year. Upon the recommendation of the committee, the Legislature extended its time for final report to February 20, 1917. Assemblyman Kelly introduced a bill providing that all lands acquired by a municipal corporation for the purpose of a water supply should be assessed and taxed at the actual land value exclusive of the improvements thereon, and at a valuation not higher than that of similar lands in the immediate vicinity; and that lands flooded by the construction of dams or used for the storing of water should be assessed on the same basis as lands not under water. The valuation for taxation purposes was restricted to the average rate of valuation per acre of improved acreage tracts similar in char¬ acter and location. The effect of such legislation would be to afford much needed protection to New York City against exorbitant assess¬ ments on its water supply lands. The bill was killed in committee. Taxing Signs. An important bill, drafted by members of your Committee for the Municipal Art Society, was introduced by Senator Wagner and advanced to third reading. It gave cities the power to tax adver¬ tising signs and devices, including the business of affixing such signs and the procuring and disposition of interests in real property and space for advertising purposes. The bill provided that the tax rate might vary progressively with the size of the sign or device, or its position, or with any circumstance relative to its value as an advertisement. About $14,000,000, or a little less than 6 per cent, of the city's budget fer 1916 represented New York City's share of the direct tax for the support of the State Government. The criticisms levelled at the Governor and the State Legislature by the local city authorities, taxpayers, civic and other organizations, against the direct tax provided for by the 1915 Legislature, resulted in the auth¬ orization by that Legislature of the ap¬ pointment of a committee to investigate the finances of the City of New York. Senator Elon R. Brown, the majority leader of the Senate, was made chairman of the committee. He conducted the investigation along constructive lines, apparently aiming to learn the difficul¬ ties of the situation and discover the proper remedies rather than merely to criticize or enlarge upon faults. The measures which became law as a result will afford the city substantial relief in many directions. After the committee had determined upon its recommendations. Mayor Mitchel, on behalf of the city, presented a program which included additional legislation. It is safe to say that never before has so much interest been aroused in the cause of obtaining for the city an increased control over its own finances, and a more equitable adjustment of gov¬ ernmental burdens between city and state. The members of the Legislature from New York City, regardless of party, met upon the invitation of Mayor Mitchel, to consider the Mayor's legis¬ lative program — an unprecedented event. Civic organizations participated in the discussions. The conferences were exceedingly helpful and encouraged con¬ certed action on the part of New York City members on many of the proposed measures. Brown Committee Program. The Brown Committee in its report recommended legislative action as follows: Changing the time for the collection of city taxes from May and November to January and July. A bill making this change was vetoed by Mayor Mitchel. Enacting the "pay-as-you-go" policy of the present city administration into law (Chap. 615). Conferring upon the city (subject to refer¬ endum) power to fix the salaries of its of¬ ficers and employees, other than judicial ofllcers. One of the two bills covering this subject passed the Legislature. It was vetoed by Mayor Mitchel. Placing-county expenses, including sal¬ aries, under the control of the city (sub¬ ject to referendum). A bill on this sub¬ ject failed of passage. Constitutional amendment mpking bills af¬ fecting counties in the city of New York, city bills. This passed the Senate only. Giving to the city government control of all expenditures of the Water Supply Board, the Court House Board and the portion of the expenses of the First District Public Service Commission payable by the city. Laws were enacted to put tho two latter recommendations into effect (Chaps. 511 and .572). Charging the State with the regulatory expenses of the Public Service Commission for the First District (Chap. .572). Tbe estimated annual saving to the city by this change, which is not operative until 1917, is $.500,000. Prohibiting further construction by the State of roads in cities and prohibiting the maintenance of county roads by the State (Chaps. 450, 570 and 571). Transferring control and maintenance of the city's normal schools to the State. A bill to this effect did not advance. Dividing the automobile tax with the counties, subject to the restriction that, except In New York City, it be expended on roads (Chap. .577). Providing that any additional excise tax be divided between the State and city. The estimated annual revenue to the city from this source ig .$1,000,000. The provision giv¬ ing the city this additional revenue is not operative until 1917 (Chap. 4](>). Placing the Sheriff of New York County on a salary basis exclusively (Chap. 525). This means a saving ot over $50,000 an¬ nually. It becomes operative in 1917. Abolishing the civil jail in New York County. A bill to this effect passed the Senate, but did not advance in the Assembly. CJiving the city power to consolidate de¬ partments. No such bill was introduced. Mayor Mitchel's Program. The Mayor estimated that his pro¬ gram, if enacted into law, would make possible a saving of approximately $25,- 000,000 in the 1917 budget, as compared with that for 1915, with an accompanying reduction in the tax rate of more than 31J4 points. This estimate was based upon the assumption that there would be no direct State tax for 1917. Mayor Mitchel's program included the pro¬ posals urged by the Brown Committee in relation of normal schools, revenues from the excise tax, the "pay-as-you-go" policy, charging the state with the regu¬ latory expenses of the Public Service Commission, motor vehicle fees, giving the city control over the expenses of the Board of Water Supply and the Public Service Commission, and transferring the custody of prisoners in the New York County civic jail. It contained the following additional proposals, some of which passed: The control by the city of the salaries and number of city and County employees, other than elective officers, as provided for by the Cromwell bills of 1915. The abolition of the office of public ad¬ ministrator in the five counties in the city and the transfer ot their functions to the City Chamberlain. The abolition ot the offlce ot the three commissioners of record, their work to be completed by a temporary force in the of¬ flce of the Register and County Clerk. The abolition of separate counsel for various County officers with provision that the Corporation Counsel act as counsel for them. The abolition of the County jails and the transfer of their maintenance to the De¬ partment of Corrections. The consolidation ot the ofllces of the Commissioners ot Jurors, under one head, to be appointed by the Justices of the Appellate Division. The contribution of $1,000,000 by the State toward such vocational training in city institutions as corresponds to the work ot the normal schools ot the State. The apportionment to New York City of Its fair share of the moneys appropriated for good roads throughout the State under the last $50,000,(XK) bond issue authorized for that purpose. The transfer to the city of the proceeds of the stock transfer tax collected in New York City, amounting to approximately ?1,000,000 annually. The establishment of a board to have charge of the purchase of city supplies. A bill providing for a Department of Purchase was introduced, but passed the Senate only. The centralization of the collection of water revenues in the Finance Depart¬ ment. The repeal of Section 48 ot the Tax Law, which permits corporations holding fran¬ chises to set off tolls and car license fees against their special franchise taxes. The reduction from two to one ot the number of Commissioners of Accounts (Chap, 517). A reduction in the size of the Board ot Education. Excess condemnation, as provided for In the bill which became law in 191,5 and which was inadvertently repealed (Chap. 112). The consolidation of the various repair shops and divisions of city departments hav¬ ing to do with repairs and maintenance ■work, into a new department ot "Plant and Structures." This department was created (Chap. .52S). The change of the Department of Public Charities into a Department of Public Wel¬ fare : the abolition of the Board of Health and the placing of all hospital institutions under a single-headed department. Although the bill repealing Section 48 of the Tax Law did not advance, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Aranow