Ra: You Spoke Up, Albany Listened

Legislative Column by Assemblyman Ed Ra (21st Assembly District)
July 7, 2011

The 2011 legislative session will undoubtedly leave a positive impression on our community. Taxpayers, employers, schoolchildren, and health care workers all benefited from a state budget, which I supported, as well as major pieces of legislation recently passed that will create jobs and make Long Island more affordable. Lawmakers delivered an on-time state budget, low-cost power, restoration in school aid, stronger rent-control regulations, and a property tax cap. In 2011, you spoke up, and the New York Legislature listened.

This year, I helped pass an on-time state budget – the first in five years – which closed New York’s $10 billion deficit without raising taxes or adding new borrowing. The budget also included a number of job-creation initiatives such as Power NY, which will provide the energy our state needs while improving our environment and creating green jobs. Programs like Power NY will help Long Island businesses invest in projects to bolster economic growth and create jobs.

I believe in the principles of lower taxes and making our community a more affordable place to live and do business. A property tax cap and rent control will give working-class families an opportunity for affordable housing, encourage our younger residents to stay in our community, and minimize the need for seniors to make tough choices between rent, food or medications. The property tax cap must be only a starting point to end Albany’s spending addiction. We now must work to lower taxes in order to promote the fragile economic recovery and promote long-term prosperity.

However, to reduce property taxes and keep them low, lawmakers now must work on eliminating all unfunded mandates sent from Albany. I have partnered with our local schools and municipalities, and have listened to their concerns regarding unfunded mandates. State-imposed mandates are a tremendous strain on localities and school budgets; as a result, our local taxpayers continue to shoulder the burden. Unfunded mandates are cost-drivers that are forcing families out of our community. Our teachers are working tirelessly with the resources they have in the classroom right now. They do not need additional expenses dictated by an unacceptable government in Albany.

Lawmakers still have a great deal of work ahead to make our state more affordable for its job creators and put nearly 800,000 unemployed New Yorkers back to work. Albany must redouble its efforts at making New York State a more attractive place to conduct business by transforming government into a partner, instead of an inhibitor, of job creation.

While legislation to repeal the outrageous MTA payroll tax easily passed in the state Senate with the strong leadership of Senator Jack Martins, its vote was blocked in the Assembly. This legislation is a responsible measure to eliminate a job-killing tax that continues to crush our local small businesses, hospitals, schools and nonprofits. This legislation is about making our community stronger, and it’s vital we once again address it for the future economic prosperity of our area. It’s equally unfair that our community is subjected to this payroll tax when morning train services have been slashed and weekend services eliminated altogether.

I am eager to speak with you over the coming months to hear your feedback about this year’s legislative session. Together, we can make next year’s legislative session as much of a success as 2011.