Fire consultants, target scofflaws, Colton says

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Embarrassing scofflaws into paying back taxes, granting a tax amnesty program and getting rid of unnecessary consultants.

Those are three ideas that one Brooklyn lawmaker is floating in Albany to bring down the state’s estimated $3.2 billion cash shortfall.

Assemblymember William Colton (D-Gravesend, Bensonhurst) said that the tax amnesty bill that he recently introduced with Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx, Westchester) would net the state an estimated $250 million of a total collective delinquency of $14 billion.

Under the amnesty program, the state would waive much of the penalties and interest to residents behind on taxes and who pay the principal.

As a side bill, introduced at the same time as the amnesty measure, the state Department of Taxes would publish the names of the top 250 individuals and business that have judgments against them.

“Fifteen to 20 states have done this in the last few years and have raised $80 to $150 million by embarrassing people and businesses into paying,” said Colton.

Those people who have been behind in their taxes for a long time and who have never tried to pay on installments would get a letter and a chance to start making payments before their names would be publicized on websites, he said.

Colton said while he originally planned to legislate the measures, he now thinks both can be done administratively instead of making them law.

Gov. Paterson included the amnesty measure in his emergency deficit reduction package he submitted last week and it should stay in the final deficit reduction bill, he said.

Colton said he has also spoken to the Taxation Department about implementing the embarrassment program administratively.

Cutting unnecessary consultants, some of whom do essentially the same work as various state agencies, would save the state between $400-$500 million over four years, according to Colton.

These consultant fees would be reviewed and possibly cut as their contracts come up, he said.

Updated 3:40 pm, October 19, 2011
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