“As an elected official who represents thousands of middle class families in New York and who fully understands their daily struggles, I am proud to have voted for legislation that will lower their tax burden. Cutting taxes for middle-income earners translates into more of their hard earned money returning to their pockets. Furthermore, it allows them to make the best financial decisions for themselves and their families. I am also pleased that this legislation lifts the tax burden off of parochial schools to fund MTA needs. Although the MTA needs resources to address transportation costs, we cannot allow schoolchildren and their parents to foot the bill. I must commend Governor Andrew Cuomo for helping to make this tax cut a reality, demonstrating an effective brand of leadership that has been absent in Albany for a very long time.
However, I must emphatically stress to the governor and my colleagues in government, that this tax cut legislation should be the start of a broad and sustained effort to address the pressing needs of New York’s middle class families. Governmental policies all too often ignore middle class families, who make up the lifeblood of our economy. Either they make too much money to be eligible for certain types of financial assistance or they lack the assets to receive the huge tax breaks that the rich in this country enjoy. But, we in government must remember that the existence and preservation of the middle class is what separates America from third world countries! Middle class families cannot afford to be ignored any longer and America’s economy cannot survive without them.
That is why we must put this tax cut legislation into a wider perspective. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are still out of work. Too many working families in this state have seen their wages stagnate or decrease. The cost of housing, food, health care, energy, higher education, transportation, and other basic necessities continues to increase. Too many people cannot afford to retire. Too many people cannot afford to attend or remain in college, and many college graduates cannot find work. These painful realities demand bold action from Albany and a flicker of interest from do-nothing Washington D.C...
Building on our determination to pass these vital tax cuts, we must continue to make strategic decisions that reflect the needs of our people, such as passing tax cuts for the working families that need them the most.
Here is what I believe we in New York’s government must also do:
- We must support and fund a world-class educational system, from Pre-K to college, which will produce a skilled and qualified labor force. If we are to insist upon accountability for our schools, then we must not play politics with their funding and help them succeed. Together with parents, the future is literally in their hands.
- We must make higher education more affordable. It is inexcusable to make college aged adults and their families pay for the mismanagement of tax dollars by their government. That is why I voted against increasing college tuition for SUNY and CUNY colleges. If the state had its spending priorities in order, then CUNY and SUNY would not be in the terrible financial shape that they are in today.
- We must reward responsible and law-abiding companies and businesses that invest in New York with tax incentives and expose those that shift the tax burden onto the backs of middle class families. It is unacceptable that a company like Lehman Brothers, Inc. which crashed in 2008, was allowed to get away with racking up a tax bill of over $1.2 billion and handing it over to New York taxpayers to pay. It is estimated that there is $14.2 to $47 billion, or more, in uncollected tax revenue that New York has failed to collect. When wealthy and powerful companies, like Lehman Brothers, Inc. do not pay their taxes, they force those who do to pay more. I will go on record stating that if every individual and every company in New York pays what they are supposed to pay in taxes, then we would not be in the financial shape than we are in today. The tax department spends too much time harassing someone who may owe $100 in back taxes, but completely ignores the fact that some companies have avoided paying billions in taxes to New York State. There must be a sense of urgency on this issue as the state considers further painful cuts to vital services.
- We must develop and implement a motto of “Invest in NY.” We must wisely use revenue to invest in vital infrastructure projects throughout the state to better serve the needs of people and businesses. That is a win-win situation of putting New Yorkers to work while at the same time addressing vital infrastructure needs in the state. We must set aside money to make transportation a priority in NY. I have supported legislation that would block the Governor and Legislature from raiding MTA funds to address budget deficits. As there is no question that the MTA needs to stop wasting precious resources on wasteful contracts, NY needs to do a better job of prioritizing transportation funding.
- We must cut wasteful spending that does nothing to further the economic agenda of the state. NY doles out too many wasteful consultant contracts totaling hundreds of millions of dollars for work that is already done or should be done by state employees. We are paying too high a price for redundant and useless consulting work. And elected officials, who are the stewards of taxpayer money, must remember that they were sent to work to do the peoples’ business, not to further their own business. We must stop throwing money around to special interests that do nothing to further the good and welfare of our state.
In summation, I believe New York is beginning to head in the right direction by paying attention to the needs of our hard working families. However, we have much more work to do. And we have over 19 million reasons to get it done.”
William Colton currently represents the 47th Assembly District in Kings County, which includes the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Gravesend. He is a member of the NY Assembly's Ways and Means committee.