Reader’s Turn to Write

January 19, 2010

Dear Editor:

New York state is facing a major deficit of somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.5 billion, usually depending on the day and which analyst you ask. In order to balance the budget and eliminate the deficit, New York’s downstate leaders have decided that cuts should be made in education, healthcare and in midyear aid reductions to local governments. In the upcoming budget negotiations, I’m anticipating that schools, counties, towns, villages, cities, hospitals and nursing homes will be forced to endure aid reductions and will be forced to saddle the taxpayers with increased property taxes and fees. To make matters worse, your property taxes are paying for services which are mandated by the state of New York, and which local governments are forced to administer! New York state, including the executive office and the legislature, must begin to come up with creative ideas to help expand the economy in our state. As we all know, you cannot cut your way out and you cannot tax your way out; you must, instead, grow your way out of financial distress.

I have been thinking about resourceful, yet practical ways in which New York state could assist its local government colleagues to generate revenue. After all, skyrocketing property taxes are the number one concern of residents, and it is local government, not state government, which receives revenue from property taxes. A certain revenue generator for local governments could be to transfer the powers and duties, along with the revenue, of the New York State Liquor Authority to New York state’s county governments. You may have recently read about the widespread corruption and the backlog of liquor license applications at the State Liquor Authority. New York businesses must often wait six to nine months for their application to be processed and their license to arrive. In New York state, counties and local governments are forced to administer programs that cost property taxpayers millions of dollars, but those jurisdictions are never given the opportunity to administer programs that may generate revenue. Instead, the state keeps the administration of those programs. I say that it is time to turn things around.

Given the responsibility for administrating the current functions of the State Liquor Authority, counties would certainly have the ability to turn this into a revenue-generating venture. This would help to reduce the cost and size of state government in an efficient and effective manner. Given the ability to appoint a liquor board, the county could determine the staffing level appropriate for the activity that the liquor board would assume. The sheriff’s department already has the ability to conduct necessary background investigations. The county could keep the application fees and reap some of the benefits of administering a state-mandated function.

The goal of this idea is to expand the potential revenue receipts for county governments in order to lessen the burden on property taxpayers. Furthermore, if the administration of the liquor license process is performed efficiently, local businesses would have the benefit of being able to expect a quick turn around of their license. Seems like a win-win for businesses and taxpayers.