By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)
Last week, Governor Paterson released his proposed budget. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the first step in the beginning of the budget process and is the foundation from which lawmakers negotiate before its passage in April. In short, in his budget the Governor proposes to slow the growth of state spending but also proposes approximately $1 billion in new taxes and fees. In this column, I highlight some of the more substantive aspects of his proposal.
I am pleased that the Governor includes many proposals that I have advocated for over that last several years. One is agency consolidation. In his budget, the Governor proposes to consolidate 15 agencies in effort to save taxpayers $14.8 million. By streamlining services and government outreach, state services run smoother and save taxpayer dollars. I am also pleased that the Governor proposes to reduce unfunded mandates on local government and school districts. This includes a four-year moratorium on unfunded mandates enacted by both the State and the State education department. The Governor also proposes to increase funding for the STAR program, which is a good idea and is one of the only means of tax relief property owners have in our current tax structure.
On the negative side, the Governor proposes $1 billion in new taxes and fees. My office receives calls on a daily basis from people telling me how State taxes and fees are negatively affecting their personal lives and businesses. In the past 10 years, state spending has increased by $52 billion or 71 percent. In order to fund this spending binge, the State has had to look for additional revenue and apparently this year is no exception.
The GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s revenue raising proposals this year include: tax increases on natural gas producers; increases once again on cigarettes by $1 per pack; a excise tax on beverage syrup and soda at a rate of $7.68 per gallon of syrup and $1.28 per gallon for soft drinks; health care assessments and surcharges totaling $240.2 million; and deploying cameras on highways to catch speeding vehicles in work zones. While most of these are targeted tax increases, New Yorkers are already overburdened and, in the end, it is the New York residents who end up paying the bill.
The good news is that this is only the beginning of the process. I am hopeful that we will make substantial changes to the governorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proposal resulting in significant reductions in spending and no new taxes and fees. However, to accomplish this we need a grassroot effort from New York citizens. I urge you to write the GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office and tell him your thoughts on his proposed budget. Enough of a grassroots voice will force the legislature and the Governor to reconsider ways in which we can trim state spending and close the our budget shortfall.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding this or any other state matter, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list, contact me by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, 13069, by e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at (315) 598-5185.