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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Tax, regulatory reform on the way?"

ALBANY, Sept. 23 -- The state Senate committees on Finance and Investigations are in the midst of a series of public hearings statewide on how New York’s tax and regulatory policies can be reformed to reduce the state’s overall tax burden and encourage private-sector job growth. The statements we’re hearing – or hearing again, in many cases – remain startling:

-- At a hearing in Albany, the head of the Washington D.C.-based Tax Foundation noted that New Yorkers pay more per capita in taxes than taxpayers in any other state in the nation;
-- One long-time observer of the state’s fiscal practices stressed that New York’s tax code is “cluttered with credits, deductions and other loopholes driven more by short term policy goals and political considerations than by the basic principles of tax fairness, efficiency, simplicity, visibility and competitiveness”;
-- According to the Business Council of New York, the tax burden and other business costs are the primary culprits for slow economic growth, especially upstate;
-- Over the past 15 years, the state’s property tax burden has increased more than 73 percent, two times as much as the rate of inflation, and well beyond the national average.

Overall, two critical points are coming out of these hearings. One consistent drumbeat is that it’s high time for New York State to focus more on broad-based tax cuts for all New Yorkers, and for all businesses and industries. A better, more balanced mix of targeted and broad-based tax relief is overdue.

Secondly is that despite all of the recent efforts to move New York State to a better and stronger economic place, New Yorkers generally may not be feeling it. A recent Siena College survey found that consumer confidence in New York is at a 20-month low. According to the poll’s authors, “Nearly twice as many New Yorkers have a pessimistic view of our five-year economic conditions compared to those with optimistic projections. Today, nearly as many consumers expect their personal finances to deteriorate as improve over the next twelve months. Early 2013 hopes have now faded.”

So heading into 2014, we’ve clearly got our work cut out for us on the tax burden front. As we look toward the next legislative session, we must keep setting the stage for bipartisan legislative action on tax reform.

There’s been some precedent for this bipartisan action since 2011. The 2% property tax cap, for example. It finally took direct aim at what’s been one of the greatest of all of New York’s downsides: high property taxes. The cap’s been working to keep property taxes under control in many places. Where it hasn’t been feasible, localities have the ability to override it. The problem is that we haven’t taken the next (and promised) step: mandate relief. Governor Cuomo gave his word that the tax cap would be followed by mandate relief. But it hasn’t happened, and it’s wrong now to simply ignore the need and the obligation. The state’s response to the cries of local leaders for relief can’t be “tough luck.”

Likewise with the Cuomo administration’s prominent “Open for Business” campaign. Unemployment figures over the past year have appeared to lay waste to the slogan. It’s fair to wonder if, on some level, New York’s mistaking slogans for solutions. There’s no magic pill for an economy recovery, especially from government. But there’s a worthwhile school of thought – one that I adhere to in fundamental ways -- that government policies can help create a business climate that works.

So New York should be open to new ideas, too. That’s the goal of the Senate’s current hearings, including one in Corning on October 9th that will focus on the manufacturing sector. We’re after the best, most effective ideas for job-creating tax policies and regulatory reforms. We know that state taxes are too high and stifle any hope for sustained economic growth. Our tax code and regulatory policies have to better reflect the realities of the modern economy and encourage any and all businesses and industries to come to and stay in New York. We’re going to put forth a comprehensive tax reform agenda for 2014 that we believe can and should gain bipartisan support and action in the Legislature.

There are optimistic signs. The fact that these Senate hearings are getting the attention they are is encouraging. Add to this mix recent reports that the governor has told supporters that he plans to push a tax-cut plan next year and reiterated that “we have no future as the tax capital of the nation."

Many of us agree, and many of us are more than ready to go well beyond what’s already been achieved.

Let’s hope we can, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. New York government has a long and sometimes not so proud track record of talking a good game, then not delivering. Think mandate relief. Think the upstate economy. Think regulatory reform.

But at the moment, it’s looking like we may just have a puncher’s chance to win this next round on tax and regulatory reform.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field

   
       

Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383

 

State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451
Website: http://gillibrand.senate.gov/

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976
www.omara.nysenate.gov

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791
Website: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Phillip-A-Palmesano

 

© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869

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