There is no doubt that our state is facing many challenges and that we need to chart a better course for our future. New York state has been losing its population because the opportunities for better jobs and a more affordable living are slowly diminishing. To help stop this trend, the key is for state lawmakers and the governor to enact a state budget for 2008 that incorporates sound fiscal policy by spending less and providing taxpayers with the relief they deserve.
While this seems obvious, not all agree that this is the best approach. Just recently, the governor introduced his fiscal plan, providing us with a glimpse as to what are his priorities. Unfortunately, he does not share my vision for what is best for taxpayers. The governorís executive budget contains nearly $2 billion in taxes and fees, would impose 44 new fees and fee increases, and cost every New York family $473 annually. This includes a hike in community college tuition, an increased gas tax, a tax for HMOs and a new driverís license fee.
To make matters worse, the governor has reneged on his promise to increase property tax relief for homeowners. Last year, he committed to $1.8 billion in property tax relief in the form of a property tax rebate check. His executive budget falls short of that promise by $550 million. With a recession looming and foreclosures at an all-time high, middle-class taxpayers can no longer afford to pay their bills and live comfortably.
Equally as alarming is the governorís 5 percent proposed increase in spending. This type of carefree spending contributed to the vicious cycle that has placed us in the position we are in today Ė one of the highest taxed states in the nation. Our state leads the nation in Medicaid spending at a rate more than twice the national average. Per pupil educational spending in New York places us among the highest in the nation, yet, we still fall short in the areas of test scores, graduation rates and school district accountability. We cannot continue to rely on taxpayers to raise the revenue needed to fund frivolous spending habits if we are to be competitive in the global marketplace.
New York is at a crossroads and our governor has a choice: either state government will continue its rate of unchecked taxing and spending and drive more people away, or the Legislature can take the steps necessary to help the Empire State grow and prosper. The good news is that the governorís budget is not set in stone. There is room for negotiation; with a collective effort, we can enact a budget more favorable to middle-class taxpayers. I look forward to working with state leaders this year to develop a comprehensive plan that will usher in a new era in New York state