Easing Family Burdens Priority For 2009 Legislative Session

Legislative column by Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
January 9, 2009

This week, lawmakers gathered in our state Capitol to listen to the Governor deliver his annual State of the State address. Governor David Paterson stressed that we are facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis and now is a time for action. It is incumbent upon us, members of the state Legislature, to work across party lines and accomplish much during this year’s legislative session. Our top priority must be to ease the fiscal burden placed on families struggling daily to make ends meet right here in upstate New York.

The Governor proposes 137 tax and fee hikes that would cost the average New York family nearly $4,000 annually. This is unacceptable, especially since the state’s problems are a function of our spending, not our revenue. We can help further by implementing a property tax cap, something I have long advocated. If the Governor is truly serious about passing a tax cap, he should amend his budget and have it put before the members of the state Legislature for a proper debate and vote.

It is essential that we adopt a comprehensive property tax reform policy, making it possible once again for New York residents to afford to call this state home. Recently, the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief released its final report, paving the way for comprehensive property tax reform. To start, we need a tax cap on the annual growth in the property tax levy at 4 percent or 120 percent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less. Next, a STAR circuit breaker would be implemented to deliver relief to individual taxpayers based on their income and ability to pay. Finally, unfunded mandates, which drive up school district costs and are passed on to local property taxpayers, must be addressed. I have been advocating these common sense reforms, with slightly different language, for more than a year now. Desperate New Yorkers cannot afford our inaction on this legislation any longer, and I call on the Governor to advance these ideas by amending his Executive Budget for 2009-10.

We must create an environment more attractive to businesses – and job creation – by lowering taxes and regulations. The statistics are disturbing with approximately 20 percent of all manufacturing jobs lost in upstate New York between 2000 and 2006. With skyrocketing taxes, astronomical energy bills and unimaginable health care premiums, it is clear why so many manufacturing firms have fled the state and continue to do so. To combat this trend, I support the “Manufacturing Preservation and Enhancement Act of 2008,” which contains provisions regarding comprehensive tax incentives for manufacturing firms across New York including significant reduction of tax burdens with property, wage and energy tax credits. In addition to these tax credits, we must cut job-killing taxes like the Corporate Franchise Tax and offer greater assistance for business energy costs while exploring alternative energy sources.

When it comes to the health of a loved one, cost should never be a factor. I am working with my colleagues to make health care in New York State more affordable and accessible to every person. This is why I support increased tax credits for expanded health savings accounts and other credits to reduce the overall cost of health care. Essential reform measures include: reducing paperwork costs by providing medical personnel greater access to health information technology, tax incentives for pro-bono preventative health care, and establishing greater scholarship and loan programs for nursing students and doctors. Health care reform must be enacted to assist the many uninsured – 1.9 million adults 19-64 and 320,000 children under 18 – statewide.

New York faces a fiscal crisis unlike any seen since the Great Depression. Government, like families, must do more with less. Reining in excessive, wasteful state spending is essential to the survival of our state, but we cannot make up revenue shortfalls by taxing families and business right out of New York State. In order to rebuild our economy we must enact measures that will ease their burdens and make this an affordable state for everyone.

As always, constituents with questions regarding this topic or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us.