Priorities in New Year: Cut Spending, Mandates and Help Job Creation
I recently listed the highlights of 2011 in this space. They included an on-time budget, a property tax cap, middle-class income tax relief, and finally, a Power for Jobs plan that won’t expire, which includes a cost-savings measure that manufacturers and large employers can count on. Last year laid the groundwork for more progress that can be made in 2012.
We need to get out of the way of the private sector and listen to their pleas for less paperwork, less red tape and less government, which gets in the way of job creation. We hear about New York’s regulations being to the extreme. It is true. If you were to lay down the amount of pages of New York’s regulations, it would equal 4.4 miles! No state needs this many regulations. By lowering taxes, reducing regulations, this would create more economic certainty so job creators can invest with confidence.
I’m hopeful that we can complement the property tax cap that passed last year with meaningful mandate relief. Mandates are when government requires a locality to do something, such as provide a service or program. Unfunded mandates create problems for counties, school districts, cities, towns and villages. Property tax levies in New York grew by 73 percent from 1998 to 2008 — more than twice the rate of inflation during that period. Now that property taxes are capped, their growth has been limited but cost drivers of unfunded mandates, which are a big reason property taxes increased to begin with, continue to exist for localities. A property tax cap without mandate relief has left a gap for localities—a gap that is hard to fill without making deep cuts into budgets, staff, services or all of the above.
Continue to Cut Spending
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: New York does not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. In 2001, the enacted budget was $85 billion. In 2011, just 10 years later, the budget was at $132 billion. Inflation can't be blamed for a $47 billion spending increase over a 10-year period. State government has grown to the point where it is unaffordable. We did not cut spending enough this year; in fact, in December, the Legislature passed an income tax adjustment that will raise more revenues, rather than finding ways we can trim our bloated budget when the tax receipts came in short in 2011.
On the Local Level
Safer Communities: I have drafted legislation that would require the Department of Social Services work directly with the Division of Criminal Justice Services to check the wanted felon status of people applying for state benefits. It was recently discovered that a man wanted for attempted murder, kidnapping and possession of a weapon in South Carolina was collecting New York State benefits. Obviously, there is a loophole in the system—one that can be closed easily with proper checks and balances. I hope to see this pass this legislative session.
Improving Tourism: I am also a sponsor of legislation that would promote our region as a destination for hunting and fishing. We have so many natural assets we can attract tourists to visit with the right marketing scheme. With an "I love NY outdoors" program, it would require the state to develop a marketing strategy that would promote New York as a premiere destination for hunting and fishing. This also would help the ancillary businesses such as restaurants, retail, bait shops, and lodging facilities.
I’m looking forward to a productive session—one that is not wrought with Albany games and three-men-in-a-room scenarios. I’m hopeful that we can continue with the progress that was made last year and to return our state to its Empire greatness by incentivizing job development and investments, and letting the private sector develop jobs. I look forward to the Governor’s State of the State address and hope that, like last year, it sets the tone for a productive session. We still need to cut spending and mandates for the sake of the jobs and families that are here and the prospects of future employers and property owners. Best to you and yours for 2012. I hope it’s a good one for all of you.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also may find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.