I am thrilled that our state leaders are finally listening to the people of our state and the rank-and-file legislators who represent them. It is a step forward that there is an agreement to rescind the plan to require new license plates. However, as happy as I am, this is only “step one”, and a small step at that.
When the Governor announced his budget proposal, which included this license plate plan, I not only opposed this plan, but the other $8 billion in taxes and fees which were dubbed “nuisance taxes.” Despite a lack of open budget negotiations, we were able to remove some of these nuisance taxes, such as the taxes proposed on recreational activities including bowling alleys, ski resorts and golf courses. However, the final budget, which came to a vote, did not go far enough to alleviate this $8 billion burden so I voted against it.
Since then, I have taken an open and active stance on many of the fees and taxes that were included in the budget, including the 2 percent utility tax, $50 fee on businesses to collect sales taxes, and removal of the STAR Rebate Program. I also have been vocal on the importance of reining in spending and have proposed a list of possible cost-cutting measures that, if enacted, would both remove some of the taxpayers’ burden and help close the budget deficit. At the same time, my office and I have been working behind the scenes to not only create new jobs, but to help save jobs in our region, such as the hundreds of jobs at Washington Mutual’s call center and ironing out a new NYRA agreement to help support Batavia Downs, one of our area’s largest employers.
As legislators return to Albany today for another extraordinary session to address the budget deficit, it is not enough for downstate leaders to say “we rescinded the DMV plan, that’s enough.” It’s not enough, especially not for Western New York. We must take action to restore the property tax relief that was cut in the budget and to address the over $8 billion in taxes and fees to help turn around the economy, create job opportunities, and assist the hard-working men and women who are struggling.
I would like to thank the county clerks and all the members of the public who joined me in fighting against the license plate plan. This is good news, but we must continue the fight to rescind other unnecessary and hurtful taxes and fees. We must use this victory as momentum to continue to fight against the two percent utility tax, the $50 fee charged to businesses for their mandated collection of sales tax and against the burn ban regulations, which are going to cause our local taxes to rise.
Today’s news is a sign that our leaders can listen when they want to. We must make them want to hear us on the other issues that are hurting our quality of life in Western New York. Despite the cynicism, both with the press and the public, I know that having a voice in our government, whether by signing a petition, calling our state leaders, or in the voting booth, we do have the opportunity to affect positive changes. I will continue fighting for Western New York and know that with the continued support and partnership from the public and local officials we can see even more positive changes like this happen.