The Way Forward To Prosperity: Cap State Spending, Reform The Tax Code, Ban Unfunded Mandates, Get Moving On Private Sector Jobs Creation

Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
July 22, 2011

Much of the news these past few weeks has focused on our nation’s capitol with its heated back-and-forth discussions about raising the nation’s debt limit, passing real spending cuts and enacting structural reforms to programs that will finally bring the federal budget back into balance. As expected, a great deal of the “debt debate” in Washington has been dominated by partisan politics and political rhetoric.


What seems to have gotten lost in Washington’s partisan squabbling is the genuine need to restore fiscal sanity at ALL levels of government. Here in New York State, I genuinely believe that we need an adult conversation about getting our Empire State back on track and headed toward long-term financial health. This journey begins – and ends – with restoring fiscal accountability that will lead to a stronger, more affordable and prosperous New York State.

While the 2011-12 State Budget achieved some progress on this front, New York State still faces massive financial challenges. Those challenges are not far off on some distant horizon – they are right here, today, and are as follows:

  • State government still spends too much;
  • New York’s tax code is too confusing, complex and costly for taxpayers and businesses and acts as a disincentive to private sector job creation;
  • Albany continues to pass its buck – along with its costs – onto the backs of local governments and school districts leading to higher property taxes; and
  • Our economy remains stuck in neutral and there are not enough good-paying private sector jobs to keep our kids here.

Fortunately, there is a real solution to every problem – and solving New York’s financial problems are no exception. I believe that the solutions are straightforward: cap state spending; reform New York’s tax code so it is fairer and flatter; prevent Albany from continuing to pass unfunded mandates, and remove regulatory barriers to private sector jobs creation.


New York State government does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Case in point: over the past decade, state spending has risen by nearly 50 percent!

Without question, Albany must learn to live within its means and stop spending more than it takes in. Liberal politicians in Albany always promise to cut spending, but we all know what those promises are worth. The true solution requires enacting a state spending cap that imposes fiscal discipline on Albany. I have introduced legislation – Assembly Bill A.5370 – that would establish a cap limiting the growth of state spending to no more than the average rate of inflation of the three previous calendar years. This cap will make fiscal accountability a reality and prevent Albany from continuing to run-up the public credit card.


New York’s tax code is nearly six thousand pages long and requires an advanced degree in accounting, economics and the law to comprehend fully. It is no exaggeration to say that our state’s complex, complicated and costly tax code is a major disincentive to job creation. Businesses look to other states with less complicated tax codes that do not penalize earnings, savings, investment and innovation the way New York does. We need to move forward with real tax reform that leads to a simpler, fairer and flatter tax code resulting in lower tax rates for everyone. Fixing New York’s tax code will reduce tax rates for families and businesses and it’s what President Reagan achieved as part of bi-partisan tax reform during his administration. Our economy would benefit as real tax reform could unleash a wave of private sector jobs creation.


Whenever Albany tells local governments to do something – start a program, provide a service, meet a perceived need – and doesn’t provide any funding, that is an “unfunded mandate.” The increased costs caused by unfunded mandates are absorbed by local governments and school districts and lead to increased local property taxes for homeowners. I have introduced two legislative initiatives – Assembly Bills A.4811 and A.8447 – that would place a permanent moratorium on certain unfunded state mandates imposed on local governments and school districts; require fiscal notes on bills stating the estimated annual costs to affected communities; and create the “Unfunded Mandate Reform Plan” to identify unfunded mandates that need to be repealed. My bills would target unfunded mandates and stop Albany’s continued cost shift.


As we wait for Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils to get moving, almost 800,000 unemployed New Yorkers continue hurting. We need to get Albany’s focus back where it needs to be: jobs, jobs, jobs. This means removing regulatory barriers to private sector jobs creation and transforming State Agencies so they work with, instead of against, job creators and support the job-creation environment New Yorkers have been demanding.

Capping spending, reforming the tax code, banning Albany’s unfunded mandates, and removing regulatory barriers to private sector jobs creation – these are common sense steps that we can, and should, take to move New York forward and increase prosperity here in the Empire State. We already know the problems; now is the time for Albany to get moving on real solutions!

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