New York Must Stop Being Reckless With Taxpayer Dollars

Legislative Column by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (R,I,C,WF-Sag Harbor)
April 22, 2009
After voting for the reckless state budget that eliminated Middle Class STAR rebate checks, Senate Majority members this week released their proposal to restore those same rebate checks. Even though I adamantly support restoring rebate checks, this proposal relies too heavily on one-shot revenues, many of which are unreliable funding sources.

The funding sources include:

  • $7.9 billion in Federal Stimulus funding, which will only be available for two years;
  • $400 million from a tax amnesty program, which is not described in the proposal so we do not know what it entails;
  • $375 million in up-front payments for terminals at Belmont Race Track, which have not yet been approved by the state for operation;
  • $184 million in new Video Lottery Terminals, which will not be available immediately due to the amount of start-up time for new terminals;
  • $500 million in shared cigarette tax revenues with Native American Tribes. This revenue is not fully explained so it is unclear whether this revenue will come from enforcing taxation of cigarettes sold on Native American reservations to non-Native Americans; and
  • $600 million from the Rainy Day Fund, which will have to be repaid to the fund in three consecutive fiscal years within a six-year period.

Instead of relying on funds that may not actually come to fruition and are only going to be collected once, we need to be raising revenue for this program by cutting spending and eliminating waste. As an original supporter of the property tax cap, I have always been on the forefront of property tax reform, but that reform needs to come in the form of a combination of a property tax cap, a circuit breaker and mandate relief for schools.

I voted against the budget for many reasons, chief among them that it did not contain a plan to provide property tax relief and it eliminated the only form of such relief that New York currently provides, STAR rebate checks. I support reinstating the checks, but I cannot support the Senate Majority proposal because, just like the budget, it is reckless with taxpayer dollars. Instead, I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can join together in coming up with a plan that will bring back STAR rebate checks while responsibly collecting the revenue to do so.