The Weeks Ahead Will Test Albany’s Commitment To Local Taxpayers

Legislative Column by Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin (R,C-Melrose)
April 26, 2011
In a recent Siena College poll, property taxes rated as the top statewide concern among Empire State residents. The majority of families, homeowners, and small-business job creators have already spoken: property taxes must be a top priority for Albany. Despite the overwhelming demand for a property tax cap, New York City lawmakers are more concerned with passing rent-control subsidies for politically connected Manhattanites than they are about the average New York taxpayer. Albany needs to listen to the hardworking New Yorkers struggling to keep their homes and pass a property tax cap now.

Albany has not been honest with its citizens. We still face serious economic challenges, including how to pay for our growing spending obligations. Raising taxes is not the answer. Albany faces severe structural problems caused by decades of unchecked spending and ever-increasing taxes. Tax increases, such as annual hikes in property tax rates, cannot be part of our plan because the economic costs outweigh the gains.

The demand for a property tax cap does not end with taxpayers. Unshackle Upstate, the National Federation of Independent Business, the New York State Association of Realtors, the Business Council of New York State, and numerous local chambers of commerce all agree that Albany needs a property tax cap to rein in out-of-control, unsustainable spending that is driving people and jobs out of our state.

We’re all forced to live within our means and adjust our budgets accordingly. Government can and must do the same. The drive for a cap on property taxes has been gaining momentum recently, and I’m confident that we can come together and pass something which an overwhelming number of New Yorkers support. Obviously, New York has no future as the highest taxed state in the nation.

The significant inroads made in the property tax cap debate have finally put us in a position to answer the demands of local taxpayers. While it was important to pass an on-time budget, Albany cannot continue to ignore the hardworking taxpayers and local elected officials I frequently speak with; a property tax cap and unfunded mandate relief must be passed together to ensure that we cap taxes for homeowners and remove the costly mandates on school districts and municipalities. Albany does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.

Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties, reports that nine of the largest state mandates make up 90 percent of taxes paid at the local level. These figures are telling: Albany is killing our local governments with unfunded mandates, forcing them to raise taxes to cover additional costs. Enough of Albany dictating to our families: let our local governments and schools determine what’s right for Upstate New York and its taxpayers.

I want to take New York forward, making it greater than we’ve ever been before. I ran for office on capping tax increases at the local level, and I am proud to see that Albany might finally be on the cusp of a true property tax cap for families and small businesses. We need to make the Empire State more affordable and more competitive so that we can give a brighter future to our children. Politicians seek the easy answer, but leaders get results in the end.