Before this past year’s budget fight, Governor Pataki traveled the state, telling whoever would listen that he wouldn’t offer any new taxes in his budget proposal. Flash forward a few weeks and there was the same governor unveiling a budget that contained billions of dollars in new taxes. In fact, his budget proposal would have been so damaging to working families that the Assembly and Senate reached across partisan divides to pass our own budget over the governor’s veto.
His proposal last year did nothing to solve the financial difficulties of New Yorkers today while making it more difficult for the New Yorkers of tomorrow to succeed. Along with the billions of dollars in hidden taxes he proposed – including a 31 percent increase in the state sales tax – he also wanted to gut billions from health care and education. The health cuts would have meant fewer jobs and poorer care for families in Suffolk County and across the state, while the cuts to education would have undermined New York’s chances to excel and grow off of the brainpower and ingenuity of future generations. Even worse, they would have led to an average 20 percent property tax hike statewide as schools would have struggled to remain afloat.
It’s helpful to look back at what happened last year for two reasons. For one, what the governor said and what he proposed were complete opposites. For another, with the next budget looming over the horizon, the governor is back to the same game. At a recent press conference, he said that he would “absolutely not…propose any tax increases this year.”
It remains to be seen exactly what the governor will propose for next year, but the signs are all ominous. The governor has thus far refused to take the hand offered to him by the Assembly, which wants nothing more than to come up with real, effective solutions. Residents of Suffolk County already pay way too much in taxes, and we want to keep the governor from making that burden even worse.
The Assembly has fought for the STAR program, which saves eligible Suffolk County seniors money on their school property tax bills; a law making more seniors eligible for the “Over 65” property tax exemption; a 10 percent tax credit for people buying long-term care insurance for elderly or disabled family members; a reduction in the Gross Receipts Tax on gas and electricity, which saved residential consumers $110 million; and supported a cut in the marriage penalty tax, saving married couples $150 million annually. During the upcoming legislative session, I will fight for additional tax relief for hard-working Suffolk County residents.
I’m committed to passing a responsible budget – a budget that helps citizens while protecting important programs. The governor’s only commitment seems to be toward pulling a fast one on the citizens he’s supposed to represent. I urge him not to revisit the wrong choices he made last year and to offer a budget that reflects and protects the needs of people across New York.