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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;
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
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
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
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869