2009: A Year In Review
Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
December 24, 2009
As 2009 draws to a close, I wanted to wish you and your family a very healthy, joyous and prosperous New Year! This holiday season is the perfect time to reflect upon the year gone by as we eagerly look forward to 2010 with a sense of optimism and renewed spirit. As we rededicate ourselves to the values we share and strive to live by, let’s look back at the year that was. 2009 SESSION BEGINS WITH THE PROMISE OF RENEWAL To say there were high hopes as we entered the 2009 session of the State Legislature in January is definitely an understatement. As Leader Pro Tempore of the Assembly Minority Conference and having the responsibility of leading our floor debates, I looked forward to having the opportunity to again make the case for a more business- and family-friendly New York where individuals could pursue their dreams – one where state government didn’t stand in their way. We had some spirited debates on the Assembly floor as my colleagues and I made our case with passion and energy but always remained civil and respectful of our colleagues. STATE BUDGET WAS A BAD DEAL FOR TAXPAYERS In March, as the economy continued its tailspin, our entire Assembly Minority Conference recognized the warning signs and voted against the 2009-10 State Budget. We publicly warned that its $8.2 billion in job-killing tax and fee hikes, along with a reckless 10 percent hike in government spending would put New York State on a collision course with financial disaster. Unfortunately, our warnings were ignored and, in the months since then, we have been proven correct as the state’s budget deficit swelled to $3.2 billion. The average family of four paid an extra $2,362.77 in higher taxes and fees this year. These working families and small businesses also have had to deal with the elimination of STAR property tax rebate checks, a $520 million increase in taxes on energy, an increase in taxes on beer and wine sales, an increase in health care taxes, a 25 percent increase in some DMV fees, 41 new license and fee hikes for sportsmen, and a $620 tuition hike at SUNY/CUNY schools. Without question, the 2009-10 State Budget was a bad deal for New York taxpayers. CHARTING A POSITIVE, NEW DIRECTION FOR OUR CONFERENCE On April 6, my Assembly Minority colleagues unanimously elected me to serve as their Leader. I was humbled and honored by the confidence they placed in my leadership abilities and pledged to forge a positive, new direction for our Conference. I pledged that our Conference would not only be the “loyal opposition,” but actually advance real solutions and non-partisan public policies to successfully meet New York’s challenges head-on. And that is exactly what we have done. In the 2009 Session, the Conference worked with our colleagues in the Majority to pass ethics reform, extend the Power for Jobs program, enact local government consolidation and promote green jobs, to name just a few accomplishments. SOUNDING THE FISCAL ALARM BELL…AGAIN New York’s economy worsened and state revenues continued their dramatic decline, so all throughout the summer I publicly called on Governor Paterson and my fellow Legislative Leaders to recognize the severity of this mounting fiscal crisis and convene Leaders’ meetings so we could get a head start on reducing the budget deficit. Sadly, entire months were wasted and the state’s budget deficit only grew worse. THE “PEOPLE’S CONVENTION TO REFORM NEW YORK” Because many of the reforms we advanced throughout the session were blocked, my colleagues and I launched a non-partisan, grassroots effort to empower fed-up and frustrated New Yorkers to take back their state government by convening a “People’s Convention to Reform New York.” We recently launched a series of Town Hall meetings to build support for the People’s Convention. Judging by the overwhelming response we have been receiving, public demand for more of these Town Hall meetings on the People’s Convention will continue to grow. If Albany is not working for you and you’re finally ready to take back your state government, learn more about a People’s Convention and sign our on-line petition at reformny.org. 2010: A NEW YEAR, A NEW HOPE Moving forward, 2010 offers a new hope for those willing to take on the broken status quo and deliver the real change taxpayers have been demanding. We must merge state agencies, ban unfunded mandates and reduce the financial burden on localities and school districts. New York needs a property tax cap, a state spending cap, and further Medicaid reform to protect taxpayers. As the New Year begins, we will continue working to reform our state so it’s a more affordable place to live, work and raise a family, “fighting the good fight” for more private sector jobs, reducing government spending and delivering real tax relief so hard-working New Yorkers can keep more of what they earn. The Empire State’s true strength comes not from the politicians in Albany, but from the people who live and work in the small towns and big cities across our state. New Yorkers have faced tough times before and have come through them even stronger. While our state has many challenges ahead, I am more confident than ever that we will rise to the occasion, take back and transform our government and realize the promise of New York. I wish you all the gift of good health and many blessings throughout 2010. As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter, should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.