As the 2007 legislative session comes to a close, the most important issues left to tackle are things that are felt most by average families in upstate New York Ė ever-increasing property taxes, and skyrocketing gas prices. Since 2000, over one million people and well-paying jobs have left New York State, often citing out-of-control taxes as the culprit. The problem is systemic of a state spending plan that continues to go unabated. This yearís enacted state budget increased spending more than three times the rate of inflation.
To fight the battle of taxation and overspending, I have joined with my Minority Colleagues to put forth a property tax relief plan that will provide direct and immediate relief for the middle-class taxpayer. Our plan calls for placing a cap on the amount a school district could hike tax levies to 4 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This plan has already proven to work and is a success in the neighboring states of Massachusetts and New Jersey. Additionally, we would control state mandates placed on localities by requiring the state to fund mandates that cost $10,000 or more per year, and require the state to take over the costs of all "optional" Medicaid services (services not required by the federal government). Providing benefits and incentives to school districts and municipalities to lower their costs will help achieve a goal of reducing the burden paid by taxpayers.
Our Conference has also led the charge on helping the average New Yorker at the pump. We introduced a three-point plan that is meant to help middle-class families. Our plan would lower the state gas tax 12.5 cents, to bring it in line with other states in the northeast; promote alternative fuels and vehicles; and fast-track the availability of ethanol fuel at the 27 Thruway Service Stations across the state. Current prices for the alternative fuel E-85 at the few New York stations that sell it is $2.59 per gallon, about 50-60 cents cheaper than a gallon of regular gasoline. By fast tracking the availability of ethanol fuel across the state to motorists on the Thruway, we would not only be able to create a substantial market for alternative fuels in New York State, but also we would be able to reduce the load on the people of the Finger Lakes Region. This also has an additional incentive for New York farmers to grow agricultural products that can be used in the production of ethanol fuels, thus increasing our independence from foreign energy and bolstering our economy.
New York needs to take the initiative in providing property tax relief to its citizens, and to reduce the burden on middle-class New Yorkers by creating outlets and a market for alternative fuels. These are two subject areas where the state can act relatively quickly and have a significant positive impact on our quality of life.