In the movie "Groundhog Day," Bill Murray's character finds himself inexplicably trapped in a time warp, continually forced to relive the same agonizing day over and over. You could easily apply this setting to the past week at our State Capitol, as the Assembly Majority released a sequel that would put any Groundhog Day remake to shame. With any luck though, their tax-and-spend sequel will bomb at the box office as New Yorkers reject their latest push for more taxes and increased spending that included none of the structural reforms to state government that I have long championed.
"RETURN OF THE TAX AND SPENDERS" - NEW YORKERS HAVE SEEN THIS MOVIE BEFORE
Tuesday afternoon, the Assembly Majority advanced their one-house budget resolution. Typically, these one-house resolutions give an overall sense of the Majority in either House of the State Legislature as to their spending and taxing priorities. In turn, those priorities are translated into specific policies - as well as dollars and cents - and directly reflected in the Assembly Majority's budget bills (the State Budget is actually a series of several budget bills) that must be enacted by New York's fiscal deadline of April 1. Keep in mind that this deadline is a mere 13 days away as I write this weekly column. Tick tock.
In a very real sense, budget resolutions are important documents as they help set the tone and tenor of state spending plan deliberations to come. Most important, they provide a crystal clear example of the respective Majority Conferences' specific public policy priorities - along with their prescriptions to cure what is ailing New York.
TWO THUMBS DOWN: ASSEMBLY MAJORITY'S BUDGET RESOLUTION WAS MORE OF THE SAME
I was disappointed - but not surprised - that the Assembly Majority's one-house budget resolution ended up being more of the same: more taxes, more spending, more of a continuation of the fiscal irresponsibility that caused New York's ongoing fiscal crisis. Instead of putting on a tired sequel, the Majority could have offered something original, taken a fresh approach and offered real solutions to meet New York's challenges, as our Assembly Minority Conference and I have continually done. Regrettably, this was not the case.
The Assembly Majority's one-house budget resolution failed to address the inescapable reality that our state government does not have a revenue problem - it has a spending problem, one that would make even the most spendthrift Hollywood studio blush. Frankly, unless something is done to get New York's spending problem under control - and enact long overdue structural reforms to costly programs like Medicaid - it won't matter how much revenue is available because the Albany politicians will ALWAYS find a way to spend it. Likewise, doing something about state government's unfunded mandates that are the principal cost drivers for municipalities and school districts must be a top priority.
By failing to seize this latest opportunity to advance real reform, the Assembly Majority's one-house budget resolution would make New York's financial problems even worse. The Majority's proposal:
Increased taxes by $4.9 billon, including a new "Baby Tax," which is a surcharge on obstetricians that hospitals will ultimately pass on to their patients;
Extended for another year the "Success Tax" (a.k.a. the "Millionaire's Tax"), a personal income surcharge that, as I wrote last week, would destroy more private sector jobs, hurt small businesses and further erode our economic competitiveness;
Delivered ZERO unfunded mandate relief for local governments and school districts that are struggling under the weight of Albany's costly rules, regulations and endless paperwork requirements; and
Failed to include any cap on skyrocketing property taxes for overtaxed homeowners who pay some of the highest rates in the nation.
BRINGING THE CURTAIN DOWN ON THE MAJORITY'S POLITICAL THEATRE
The Majority's extension of the Success Tax would not even take effect until 2012-13, which means their efforts to ensure its continuation was an exercise in political theatre and not a credible attempt at policy-making. Our Conference, Governor Cuomo and the Senate Majority strongly oppose any attempt to extend this job-destroying tax, whether it is for one year, one month, or one day. Much like we did in 2010, the Assembly Minority Conference unanimously rejected the Assembly Majority's one-house budget resolution, which passed along a party-line vote. I said as much during our five-way Legislative Leaders meeting at the Governor's Office that took place Thursday morning, as I reiterated my priorities for a fiscally responsible and on-time State Budget.
History has proven time and again that increasing taxes and government spending are not the answer, especially as our state tries to recover from the recession. Rebuilding the economy, restoring fiscal sanity to Albany, delivering tax and unfunded mandate relief for families, businesses, localities and school districts add up to the blockbuster hit we need to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers and get our state moving again. Cut, print, roll credits.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at email@example.com. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and informational updates regarding state government and our Assembly Minority Conference.