STUMP » Articles » Process is important: SALT cap and NY redistricting » 22 April 2022, 19:45

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Process is important: SALT cap and NY redistricting  


22 April 2022, 19:45

Happy birthday to me! (I will ignore the hippie holiday today)

For those who are new readers to STUMP, I am a grumpy conservative, but worry not, that does not come (much) into my mortality posts. Other than reminding people that THEY WILL DIE!!!!!! (eventually)

My first blogging love has to do with public finance and other public policy things. If you want to avoid that, you can just click on the “Mortality with Meep” button on my substack; that will give you only the mortality posts. You may click away from this post on taxes and NY politics, and enjoy death in peace.

SCOTUS swats down the high tax states

As a dog returns to its vomit, politicians from high-tax states (including mine) keep futilely trying to use the courts to try to knock down a perfectly reasonable tax change — that state and local taxes are limited in their deductibility from federal taxes.

Here’s the story:

SCOTUS swats away SALT cap challenge that limits tax deductions in New York, Maryland

The Supreme Court Monday rejected an appeal from several states challenging Congress’s cap on state and local taxes that can be deducted from federal taxable income.

New York led a group including Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maryland in trying to strike down the 2017 limit known as the SALT cap, which limits people to $10,000 of their state and local property and income taxes that can be deducted. The states argued that the cap improperly encroached on states’ taxing ability.

This is such a silly argument.

Federal taxes could just not deduct state and local taxes (SALT) at all, as opposed to having a flat cap of $10K. The federal tax regime doesn’t have to acknowledge state and local taxes at all. I will get into more practical detail in a bit.

Given SALT tends to be well below 100% of personal income, that federal income tax caps the amount you can deduct has no effect on the power of states to tax.

(Similarly, federal taxes max out well below 100% of income. Aren’t they generous?)

But, hilariously, the Supreme Court did not even deign to explain its reasoning for rejecting this argument.

The Supreme Court did not provide any explanation for declining to hear the case.

Why do they have to?


To change the SALT cap, you actually have to pass laws

It’s that simple.

The issue is that they don’t like the tax law. There is nothing particularly unconstitutional about the law, just that they hate the effect it has on their localities.

Obviously, federal income tax does not have to deduct state or local taxes of any sort. I assume this is not news to the states that were suing.

Even before this change, it wasn’t like I got to deduct all the state and local taxes I paid.

I paid state income tax to both NY and CT. When I lived in New York City, I paid city income taxes. I pay property taxes. I pay sales taxes. I pay extra surcharges/taxes on my energy bills, some of which are local, maybe some are federal? I don’t know. A lot of these, I never got to deduct.

[cue the Beatles Taxman…. but not actually playing it embedded in my post, because I don’t need a copywrite strike]

And at least one year, I got hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax for the federal income tax. The AMT greatly constrains what you can deduct. But no state (or locality) managed to get that knocked down. I don’t think they even tried.

In any case, if they want the SALT cap removed, they cannot go the route of the courts. They actually have to get legislation passed in Congress.

Which the Democrats have not been able to do, because they’ve got a bunch of Progressives pointing out “But hey, we want to tax the rich! Why do the states get all the fun?”

I hope they see that now and will STOP WASTING MY TAX MONEY litigating a losing cause.

NY also whiffs on redistricting

Speaking of wasting my tax money, NY Dems have been hilariously hoisted on their own petard with respect to redistricting for Congress (less so in redistricting for the state legislature).

Ballotpedia is your friend for keeping tabs on this sort of thing, by the way. All the redistricting lawsuits for the 2020 census cycle are on this page.

New York lost a congressional seat in the decennial census reapportionment. That was expected.

Back in 2014, somebody got the bright idea of getting a state constitutional amendment passed such that a bipartisan redistricting commission would set districts for the U.S. Congress, and also the state legislature.

Politicians in the state legislature from both parties voted for it! Politicians from both parties sponsored it!

That should have set off alarms right away.

I had completely forgotten about this clause, probably because I almost certainly voted against it. And why? Because of what Blair Horner said at the time in exhorting people to vote no:

…Vote NO not because you think the state’s redistricting system is fine – it’s far from it – but vote NO to send a clear message to Albany: You are sick of fake reforms…
Much has been made that Proposal 1 creates a new redistricting commission and that there are new standards for membership on the proposed redistricting Commission. But will that Commission be truly independent? Proposal 1 lets the Legislature choose the members of the redistricting commission. And here’s the kicker: If these political appointees miraculously act independently, Proposal 1 allows the Legislature to reject their plan and replace it with their own!…

But it gets worse. For the first time in New York state history, future mapmakers will have to consider the core of existing legislative districts when drawing future district lines. Despite all you will hear about how Proposal 1 prohibits gerrymandering, it requires future mapmakers to rely on the current gerrymandered districts when future districts are drawn. Currently, there is no such requirement in the state Constitution. Theoretically, mapmakers can start from scratch when drawing district lines. Proposal 1 forces future mapmakers to rely on the “core” of existing districts (an undefined term) to draw future maps.

So, Proposal 1 not only is a scheme that seeks to bamboozle the public with the status quo merely masquerading as reform, it actually makes the current situation worse!

New York voters are faced with two lousy choices: keep the awful status quo or approve a so-called reform that makes matters worse.

But a vote NO helps keep the pressure on Albany. The next redistricting is not due until 2022, which gives the governor and the Legislature plenty of time to get it right.

Well, it passed, but it was a 58/42 split. Not close, but there were enough of us suspecting it was entirely bullshit.

Guess what.

New York appeals court knocks down Legislature-drawn maps

Appeals court tosses NY congressional districts, saying Dems gerrymandered

A mid-level state appeals court ruled Democrats gerrymandered New York’s new congressional districts to their favor, setting up a pending showdown in the state’s top court that could sway the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The state Appellate Division in Rochester issued a split decision Thursday upholding a lower court’s ruling that threw out the Democrat-drawn congressional districts, finding they violated the state constitution’s ban on drawing district lines to benefit a particular party. But the appeals court reinstated New York’s newly drawn state Senate and Assembly district lines, which the trial court judge had also tossed on procedural grounds.

Here is the nutshell version, which you can dig into details at Ballotpedia:

- The bipartisan commission came to an impasse in drawing redistricting maps, so two complete set of maps were produced
- The Democratic-dominated legislature threw out both sets of maps and made their own, passed them, and the Dem governor signed them into law in February 2022
- Republicans sued
- Lower court threw out the approved maps March 2022
- Dems appealed
- Appeals court threw out the U.S. Congressional districts map, reinstated the state legislative district maps

So this is the first round of appeals, with the lovely deadline of April 30 for new map for U.S. Congressional districts, so that June 28 primaries can still be held.

Fat chance.

I liked this detail about the testimony in this case:

Republicans relied on testimony from Sean Trende, senior elections analyst for Real Clear Politics, who ran computer simulations that created thousands of potential outcomes, concluding that Democrats drew the maps to their favor.

The judges ruled Trende’s testimony, combined with the dramatic Democratic shift in the maps as well as a lack of Republican support, were enough to prove Democrats gerrymandered the congressional maps to their favor.

In most places, this would be a big old “duh”.

For Sean Trende, I cannot imagine this was a particularly difficult modeling job.

It reminds me of a few scenario tests I did once, where all reasonable tests basically showed no losses. I told the people asking for them it might be better that I find a scenario where things would fail, so they could see just how extreme a situation they were seeking. Like, it would require three meteors hitting Earth while supervolcanoes were erupting. And Gamera the Invincible and Yongary were awoken from the ice. That sort of thing.

None of this would have been a problem for the Democrats… if only they hadn’t signed onto what they probably thought was a bullshit redistricting reform.

They probably thought Blair Horner was correct, too — the clause allowed for the NY state legislature to do the redistricting if the commission didn’t give acceptable maps. So that’s what they did.

Do not pass rules you never want enforced

They didn’t think anybody would call them on this bit:

Districts shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.

Who ever thought that the language they themselves wrote, and got added to the state constitution, would come back to bite them?

I mean, it was supposed to be somebody else who would be prevented from grabbing power, not the good guys!

The Democrats could have had their lovely maps with 22 districts favoring Democrats and 4 favoring Republicans in NY (current Congressional delegation is 19 Dems, 8 Repubs) is they hadn’t gone for what they probably thought was a fake reform in 2014.

But oh well.

You passed the process, and now that’s what you’re stuck with.

If you want to be allowed to gerrymander, then you’ve got to amend the state constitution again.

I have a feeling they’ll have a lot more difficulty in getting voters to agree with allowing them to gerrymander again. They had that power for over 200 years, and they just threw it away in 2014.

You silly politicians.

Process is important

If you do not like the rules you’re playing by, then there are rules by which you get to change the rules.

If you are an autocrat, the rule can be: one man, one vote. I AM THE MAN: I GET THE VOTE.

(cribbed from Terry Pratchett… too lazy to look up his verbatim quote from Vetinari)


One can pass “fake” rules, but those can be dangerous, as many are finding out.

Passing rules thinking they’ll never get applied to you… I swear, there has got to be some kind of Universal Law. Maybe this (NY language warning).

This is not exactly a tangent, but I just finished this excellent book on the history of Korea, titled, straightforwardly enough, A History of Korea. I think it helps reading history of other countries that you have no real connection to, because you have no emotional response to much. You’re just thinking about the power plays, and how stupid it was for King A to do action B when the same thing happened 200 years before with Queen A’ doing the same action B and the situation was basically the same.

My point is this: politicians, do not assume your empty gesture is empty.

And if you want to take back the laws that you passed, well, there is a process for that.

I’m sure you’ve greased all the hoops you’ve got to jump through, and I wish you well.


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