The 2008 legislative session began this past week with Governor Spitzer delivering his State of the State address. He presented an ambitious agenda that aims to tackle various issues confronting New Yorkers. However, in looking ahead to the future and the legislative agenda that I will pursue on behalf of the residents in my district, one particular issue overshadows the others – the need to make New York state a more affordable place to live and work.
With our taxes being among the highest in the nation, reducing property taxes is one way in which we can make housing more affordable for businesses and residents. The cost of living in New York has forced many residents and businesses to leave, thus slowing the economic engine of the state. I believe the best way to cut property taxes is by holding the line on spending, capping the tax levy and eliminating Medicaid waste, fraud and abuse. The governor has stated that he will issue a commission to study a property tax cap, but I believe a cap should be implemented immediately. With families and businesses already struggling under the weight of mortgage payments, reducing the property tax burden is our top priority.
Another major issue that tops my legislative agenda is job creation. New York’s businesses must be able to compete with other states and in the global marketplace. Burdensome regulations and high taxes have eroded our competitive edge and forced businesses to relocate elsewhere. We also need to stop the “brain drain” so that skilled labor does not leave our state for better job opportunities in neighboring states. By reducing business taxes, reforming the Scaffold Act, investing in education to build a skilled workforce and helping small businesses thrive, we can help make our economy grow by attracting new businesses and creating jobs.
Recent increases in energy and health care costs have also created an undue burden on New York’s families and seniors. Whether it is the cost of a barrel of oil that drives up the cost of heating and gasoline, or insurance companies charging more for medical services, steps must be taken at the state level to combat these factors. To provide energy cost relief, I am supporting tax incentives such as a $200 tax rebate for seniors to help pay for heating, a tax credit for energy efficiency home improvements, exemption of the sales tax on alternative fuels used for home heating and an income tax credit for Energy Star-labeled appliances.
For additional savings with health care costs, I am advocating for an EPIC Extra program, whereby seniors would be able to increase their annual tax deduction to defray the cost of prescription drugs and I will fight for increasing tax credits for long-term care insurance. I am also supporting proposals geared toward helping patients, but would also assist caregivers by helping reverse the state’s nursing shortage and retaining physicians in underserved areas. Working hard to provide access to quality, affordable health care so that New Yorkers can lead healthier lives, is one of my top legislative priorities.
I look forward to the new session and will work diligently with state leaders to enact many cost saving measures this year. New York state needs a new direction with better policies that will spur economic growth and job creation, lower the cost of energy and health care and reduce skyrocketing property taxes. I am fully confident that together we can accomplish much toward building a better life for all New Yorkers.