More Must be Done to Stop Escalating Property Taxes

Legislative Column by Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I – Canandaigua)
August 22, 2008

New York has a proud heritage of being the land of opportunity for millions of immigrants. It is a shame that in our generation, an unrelenting stream of tax hikes have made families with deep roots in Upstate New York pack their belongings and young children into moving vans and drive south in droves, a constant stream of newly minted ex-New Yorkers fleeing to less expensive places to live and work.

During this year’s legislative session, we barely scratched the surface of reining in out-of-control state spending. The Legislature reduced state spending by over $400 million for the current fiscal year, but we must return before the end of 2008 to further reduce the costs of this year’s budget.

Unfortunately, the Legislature did not provide desperately-needed comprehensive property tax relief for New York homeowners.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his Majority Conference failed to take advantage of a recent special economic session called by Governor David Paterson. Governor Paterson called on the Assembly to take up his legislation creating a property tax cap. Sheldon Silver and the Majority failed to take action on the Governor’s bill. Instead, the first action taken by the Assembly Majority was a one-house bill that raised taxes by $2.6 billion and provided inadequate tax relief for New York’s overburdened taxpayers.

This is the type of political posturing that taxpayers living in New York state will no longer tolerate.

This bill was not supported by Governor Paterson or any other legislative conference in Albany and did absolutely nothing to rein in excessive state spending, providing no more than political theater in an election year. As a state legislator, I am appalled that this type of action was taken by the Assembly Majority. We must come back to Albany and focus on a comprehensive solution, including spending reductions, a property tax cap and tax relief for those on fixed incomes.

It is inexcusable that many of my colleagues on the opposite side of the political aisle had the audacity to pat themselves on the back for passing a convoluted circuit breaker bill that does little, if anything, to help struggling homeowners and actually increases taxes.

We must put partisan politics aside and pass legislation that will scale back excessive state spending while offering long-term, significant property tax relief to overtaxed Upstate New York residents. This can be done with a multifaceted approach that includes a property tax cap at 4 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, a circuit breaker that further assists those on fixed and limited incomes, the elimination of all unfunded mandates that drive up local property tax bills and tough decisions regarding state spending that will lower taxes.

I have called on Speaker Silver to keep lawmakers in Albany until a consensus is reached so that we can immediately act to put this state back on the right economic track. Governor Paterson’s common-sense property tax legislation is a good first step for New York taxpayers. I will continue to advocate that we return to Albany and work with the Governor to lower property taxes for Upstate homeowners.