Education, Responsible Budget And Real Tax Relief Should Be State Priorities In 2014

A legislative column by Assemblyman Edward P. Ra (R-Franklin Square)
January 9, 2014

In his State of the State address, Gov. Cuomo put forth several initiatives that he feels will best move our middle class and state forward in the years to come. While there is much we can work on together, there were several missed opportunities in the agenda set forth.

First and foremost, the governor neglected to mention the biggest issue facing our education system: the need to pull back and take a serious look at Common Core and fix the problems this new mandate has created. Over the past few months, Iíve led a series of forums across our state concerning these new set of standards and the high-stakes testing that are draining the enthusiasm from our schools. The testimony we heard made clear several points we must address regarding education this year.

It is crucial that we restore local control of curriculum and testing, allowing our educators to do what they do best and provide our children with a top-notch education. We need to protect the rights of parents, allowing them the ability to better direct their childrenís education and make sure students with special needs are being properly accommodated. With the testing and assessments that have become a part of Common Core, we must also take steps to protect the personal information about our children from being abused by the third-party collectors of this data.

We also have an opportunity to enact another responsible, on-time budget this year. We should once again respect our self-imposed spending cap and act within the same restrictions as our local governments after enacting the historic property tax cap. With the surplus the governor mentioned in his remarks, we should use this budget to set a realistic and definite timetable to restore the Gap Elimination Adjustment that ravaged our schoolsí budgets.

The need to cut taxes was made abundantly clear once again this year, as New Yorkís tax climate continues to be abysmal. This is an opportune time to enact meaningful tax relief, and we should eschew some of the gimmicks and temporary tax credits proposed by Gov. Cuomo. Simply put, we must help our middle-class families and seniors by lowering their property and income taxes. The governorís property tax freeze and suggestion of a circuit breaker would certainly be a positive first step this year in providing our overburdened Nassau County homeowners with some financial breathing room and should be discussed in this yearís budget. It is time to start enacting real mandate relief for our local governments, so we can make this happen.

We also need to pave the way for quality expansion of jobs, so everyone from college graduates to blue-collar workers can find a successful career here on Long Island, not in Florida or Texas. This means making it more affordable for businesses to stay here by ending the years of bureaucratic red tape and costly fees. It means getting Albany out of the way of the innovators that drive our economy. The proposal to lower our corporate tax rate is a good one, but forming another commission to look at business regulations is unnecessary. We know where the obstacles to growth are; letís fix them in 2014.

Going forward in 2014, I look forward to working with the governor and my legislative colleagues in accomplishing these tasks and making Nassau County an even better place to work, live and raise a family.