Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) highlighted the recent Tax Foundation report, which announced that Orleans, Niagara, Monroe and Genesee counties all top the nation in highest property taxes as a percentage of median home value, when calling upon the State Legislature to immediately address property tax-saving measures. The top measure hurting property taxpayers, according to Hawley, is the estimated $6 billion in unfunded mandates pushed onto local governments and, consequently, homeowners.
“Unfortunately, all we are seeing from our state’s leaders right now is inaction when it comes to solving this crisis. As always, Albany is continuing to shift the burden, and shift the blame, for property taxpayers’ ever-rising tax burden. In fact, this proposed state budget will shift nearly $4,000 per individual taxpayer. For our state’s economy to recover, Albany needs to begin taking responsibility for its spending. We cannot afford this year’s record-breaking budget proposal and we certainly cannot afford $4,000 in subsequent tax hikes,” said Hawley.
According to the Assemblyman, the solution is multi-fold, which is why he has been a vocal advocate for increasing the economic viability of Western New York in order to help lower property tax costs. The more businesses paying property taxes, the less these taxes will be burdening homeowners. However, Hawley states, “We must do more to attract business to coming to New York and we must strengthen our commitment to keeping businesses here. We cannot expect businesses to bear the brunt of the property tax burden and still offer quality jobs. But it is vital to our long-term property tax-relieving solution that we address business growth.”
Last year, as the nation was on the brink of an economic recession, Hawley was among tax reformers who asked, “Isn’t it about time New York State make some tough budget choices as well?” The federal government stepped in with their federal stimulus checks and buy-out capital for corporations, but it was still clear that states would need to rein in spending and consider stimulus plans of their own. However, despite this, the New York State Legislature passed the most expensive budget in state history.
This year’s Executive Budget proposal breaks the spending record again, paid for by 137 new and increased taxes. His budget proposal also eliminates the property tax rebate check and decreases STAR exemptions across the board. At the same time, this budget does not address Medicaid fraud and, moreover, by cutting education aid, it will pass along an inevitable burden to local governments. Not only will this plan cause local property taxes to rise, but it could also cost the state over half a million jobs. According to former state chief economist Stephen Kagann, every $100 million in new taxes imposed during a recession leads to a loss of 11,400 private sector jobs. With these tax hikes totaling $6 billion, this means the approximate loss of 600,000 jobs.
To balance the State Budget and reduce the state’s debt, Hawley has long called for cost saving measures, such as agency and department consolidation, such as merging the Office of Real Property Services into the Department of Taxation and Finance, saving New York State taxpayers $18 million annually. Another $37 million would be saved by merging the Office of Climate Change into the Office of Atmospheric Research at the State University of Albany.
Hawley also has been on the forefront of tackling government waste by calling for state operating cost cuts and continues to propose cost-saving measures such as limiting the amount of vehicles purchased on taxpayer dollars by 50 percent (not including public safety vehicles such as police, fire and emergency services vehicles) to save another estimated $4 million and $25 million, respectively. Assemblyman Hawley stated, “The bulk of the cost savings would come from finally targeting Medicaid fraud, abuse and waste. I have long supported a complete state take-over of Medicaid. Not only would this help ensure the program is run more efficiently, but it would eliminate a multi-billion unfunded mandate currently put on our local governments and taxpayers. Perhaps, most importantly, by forcing the state to take responsibility for the Medicaid program, it will also help make Albany more accountable and cognizant for its spending overall.”
The Tax Foundation used information compiled by the United States Census Bureau from 2005 to 2007 in their report which shows that out of all counties in the nation (with 20,000 or more residents) Orleans County residents pay the highest property taxes as a percentage of their home worth at 3.05 percent. Niagara County came in second at 2.90 percent, followed by Monroe County ranking fifth and Genesee County ranking eighth at 2.84 and 2.69 percent, respectively. Every county topping the nation’s most highly taxed counties came from New York State (rankings 1-20), with the exception of Fort Bend County in Texas, ranking in eleventh place. The majority of New York State counties on the list came from Western New York, strengthening Hawley’s assertion that economic stimulus and a drastic reduction in spending are vital to lowering property taxes.