Since taking office, I have worked with the governor and my colleagues in the state Legislature to reduce state taxes, yet New York still has the third-highest property tax rate in the nation. Much of that tax burden rests with local municipalities because they are often required to pay for state government-mandated programs. These “unfunded mandates” placed on local governments and school districts usually require them to pass tax increases down to property owners.
Most mandates start with good intentions by improving safety or enhancing services. But the state too often neglects the impacts on local taxes. I have opposed, and will continue to fight against, unfunded mandates. Reducing the number of unfunded mandates not only saves local tax dollars, it makes good governing sense. Coupled with other cost-saving initiatives, I believe we can save each of our taxpayers hundreds of dollars every year.
I believe most people agree the fastest growing costs statewide are health care and government spending. Medicaid is an important program for residents who cannot afford the health care assistance they need. In New York, county governments pay for much of the Medicaid program; unfortunately, it has become a substantial burden. Federal government estimates show the program in New York costs taxpayers nearly $4.5 billion annually in system fraud, abuse and waste.
I am working to save New Yorkers from this cost by proposing Medicaid fraud recovery and reporting requirements that would strengthen each county’s ability to pursue Medicaid fraud and make it easier for individuals to report abuse. My colleagues and I in the Legislature are also working to strengthen the Office of Medicaid Inspector General and create a Medicaid Fraud Interagency Task Force. The initiatives would most likely eliminate most of the waste and fraud while streamlining the program to improve services.
My Assembly minority colleagues and I are exploring other ways to reduce the property tax burden by reforming the tax formula. I am pushing for a new system that would replace the school property tax with a more fair and equitable income-based tax to reduce the property tax burden on residents who make less money.
Our existing school tax system is regressive because it disproportionately taxes seniors whose children are no longer part of the public school system. The School Tax Relief (STAR) program protects many seniors in our community from losing their homes to exorbitant taxes. But, with housing values and assessments going up over the years, it has become a lot more difficult for the elderly to pay those bills.
Another initiative I support during this legislative session is STAR Excelsior – a proposal that would provide $1.75 billion in additional school tax relief by immediately indexing the Basic and Enhanced STAR exemptions to the current median housing value in the state. That means current STAR exemptions would increase by 70 percent, thus helping many of our older community members. It prevents seniors from having to choose between paying for vital medications or making property tax payments on homes they long ago finished paying mortgages.
As always, please contact my office if you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding this or any other matter. I can be reached by mail at 2300 West Ridge Road, Rochester, NY 14626, by e-mail at email@example.com, or by calling (585) 225-4190.