Over the next two months, the state Legislature and the governor will negotiate the details of the state's spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins April 1. A number of ideas presented in Governor Spitzer's Executive Budget are worth discussing – among them, proposals to help alleviate high property taxes and finally addressing sales tax collection from Native Americans – however, there are also areas of major concern. Although the governor pledged to rein in total spending, his budget increases spending by $7 billion, or 6.3 percent; a much higher rate than last year and twice the rate of inflation. His plan also fails to address debt reform, which is an area that still needs to be tackled.
I am pleased the governor's proposal targets more property tax relief, however, the method he uses to provide relief concerns me. Spitzer's plan eliminates property tax rebate checks, instead paying those monies directly to the school districts without any spending restrictions. With no mechanism to restrict district spending, there is no system to prevent school districts from eroding the STAR tax relief benefit.
I am pleased there is a call for the collection of sales taxes from Native American-owned businesses. The fact is these businesses have been operating with an unfair advantage over non-Indian-owned small businesses, which have to collect and pay sales tax to the state for the goods and services they provide. Governor Spitzer's budget calls for the collection of sales tax from Indian businesses, however, he does not define how the state will go about collecting the tax; there is no doubt this will be long-debated.
To pay for his big budget, the governor's plan calls for increased or expanded fees, such as an expansion of the bottle deposit to include non-carbonated drinks. Fees like this place additional “hidden taxes” on New Yorkers. In upstate New York, we need to do everything possible to reduce, not hide, the tax burden.
Spitzer’s budget also fails to do enough to help local businesses survive in our increasingly global economy. As we debate the merits of his budget, I will bring this up and fight for additional relief in the form of meaningful workers’ compensation reform and eliminating the corporate franchise tax on manufacturers. As New York's most important employers, small businesses need as much help as possible.
I am committed to hearing what my constituents have to say about the governor's budget. As such, I will be hosting a series of town hall-style meetings throughout my Assembly District, so I can bring your comments back to Albany for input during budget deliberations.