For weeks, the state budget, hijacked by three New York City leaders Smith, Silver and Paterson was negotiated behind closed doors without any regard for the rank-and-file members who represent upstate voters. As we review the 2500-page budget, it becomes increasingly clear why they kept it out of public view: it overspends and overtaxes.
The 2009-10 budget includes record spending: ten percent more than last years budget, and $7 billion in higher taxes and fees. This means that residents will be paying more for items such as hunting and fishing licenses, beer and wine, vehicle registrations and license plates. At a time when middle-class families are seeking financial relief from the growing burdens imposed by state government, this spending plan - at best - can be characterized as reckless. This will not only drive us deeper into recession, but it will make it more difficult for us to fill future funding gaps left by the absence of stimulus funds.
Most egregiously, the STAR Property Tax Rebate check program has been eliminated! Seniors and families that have come to depend on these checks to help offset their school taxes will no longer receive them. Instead, the governor has put that money into a secret slush fund for his own use. With no alternate property tax relief plan included in the budget, unfunded mandates on localities, which get passed onto taxpayers, will make it difficult for residents to afford to live in their homes. Governor Paterson should use the $1 billion slush fund he plans to spend without any public knowledge and restore the STAR rebate checks for taxpayers to offset their skyrocketing property taxes.
Rather than taking the necessary steps to control spending and cut waste, such as tackling Medicaid fraud, reining in public authority spending and looking at agency consolidations, the budget increases spending by $10.5 billion.
Looking forward, we need to take steps that will create greater transparency and give taxpayers a greater voice in the budget process. New York City leaders cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of hardworking upstate residents. Rather than rely on fiscal gimmicks and tax hikes, we need sound fiscal policy that will help put our state back on the road to economic recovery.