Time To Tighten The Belt

Legislative column from Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
March 28, 2008

It is time for us to get our government back on track, by turning our attention away from all the scandals and gossip, and focus on creating a 2008-09 State Budget that delivers for the people of New York. Negotiations have resumed in earnest with budget talks taking place over the weekend, making it a real possibility that a fiscal blueprint will be in place on or before the April 1 deadline.

So far, budget negotiations have resulted in a slight reduction in state spending but, still, it is costing New Yorkers too much. To pay for any spending increases, there is a corresponding need for increased revenue in the form of additional taxes, fees and fines. It is unacceptable that some want to balance the state budget on the backs of the middle-class, upstate residents who are already struggling just to make ends meet.

With a projected $5 billion deficit, state legislators must rein in excessive spending by scaling back government, making it more efficient, and allowing us to eliminate onerous taxes and fees. Less government will mean more money in your wallet. Only then can we begin to fully invest in making this a better state to live, work and raise a family.

As we finish the last-minute touches on the budget, I will continue my fight to tighten the belt and eliminate government waste and redundancy. A few areas where we can trim the fat: implement a state hiring freeze; aggressively combat Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse; merge the Thruway Authority into the Department of Transportation; and consolidate the Consumer Protection Board with the Department of Law.

The money saved through these measures could be returned to the pockets of hard-working families across the Empire State. One of my top priorities is to enact an upstate revitalization program that will invest in the future of our communities by encouraging industry to move back into our region. While balancing the budget is necessary to prevent the state deficit being paid for by future generations, we also need to do something now to keep people here.

By scaling back on government, we can redirect funds to reduce the tax burden placed on our already overwhelmed state taxpayers. I suggest we end the personal income tax on Middle Class STAR rebate checks; cut personal income tax for individuals earning $75,000 or less a year and families earning $150,000 or less; eliminate all gas taxes including the sales tax; and assist families with medical costs by increasing financial aid to nursing homes, as well as hospitals.

Cutting back on state spending, focusing on the long-term implications of new spending programs and paying off state debt will allow us to invest fiscal resources into our state, making it a place we can again afford to call home. To help facilitate this end, we need a more open and transparent budget process so that the public can participate in the formation of the state budget. This is why I encourage my constituents to contact me with their thoughts, ideas or concerns. I can be reached in my district office at (315) 781-2030 or via e-mail at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us.