From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Herman D. Farrell, Jr., Chair, Ways and Means Committee
The governor has been traveling the state, repeating his promise to avoid "job-killing taxes." But because of his proposed $1.4 billion cut to education funding, the average property tax statewide would have to go up nearly 20 percent just to maintain current services. So after an event in Watertown on March 4, Lt. Governor Mary Donohue was rightly asked whether a property tax increase was, in fact, another job-killing tax. According to the next day’s Watertown Daily Times, "She responded by saying property taxes are a local issue and not a concern of the state." The school aid cut, coupled with a freeze on the basic STAR property tax relief program, underscores the governor’s lack of concern for local taxpayers.
In reality, property taxes are one of the deadliest kinds of taxes when it comes to job creation. With higher property tax rates, new businesses are reluctant to open, other businesses are less inclined to relocate to an area, and families are less able to afford homes. If that’s not a job-killing tax, what is? For the governor, a tax hike is only a tax hike when he decides to call it one.
Of course, school districts aren’t required to raise taxes – assuming they’re willing to pare programs to the bone and offer kids a sub-standard education. According to Lt. Governor Donohue, that kind of paring may be good for kids. She said, "[M]oney isn’t all that matters in education…The lessons our kids will learn from belt tightening in education will be a positive for them." That’s an awfully hard lesson for schoolchildren – especially the 60,000 four-year-olds who will be locked out of their pre-K classrooms.
According to the Daily Times, she suggested schools cut down on paper to help pay for the largest school aid cut in history.
tax on our future
What the governor is pushing on localities is a cynical, politically-motivated Catch-22: Either slash programs and offer kids a second-rate education, or raise taxes to maintain current standards – in essence, replacing the rising stars in our classrooms with the fallen STARs of inflated taxes and impoverished schools.
Whether or not localities raise taxes or cut education programs, the governor is effectively limiting our ability to compete in the future. We simply cannot attract jobs to the state without a first-rate workforce, and we can’t build a first-rate workforce with second-rate schools. We can’t get a workforce to stay in the state, either, if we’re pricing working families out through higher property taxes. If New York continues on with the same anemic rates of job creation, we’ll see stagnation for many more years to come.
Of course, tough times call for tough choices, but they have to be the right choices – and the governor’s definitely are not. That’s why the Assembly is committed to fighting the governor’s shortsighted budget – and his regressive tax hikes.
New Yorkers don’t deserve higher property taxes and second-rate schools.
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