Blankenbush: New York must provide tax and mandate relief
Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 3:35 pm

To the Editor:

New York State, like much of the rest of the nation, is dealing with the fallout from the worst economic crisis in decades. Families and businesses are struggling to make ends meet and are looking for relief, but instead, are just having to give up more of their hard earned money in the form of taxes.

The Wall Street Journal has called New York State the “Tax Capital of the World’ because of its excessive state and local tax burden. Since 2000, more than 1.5 million residents have left New York—the largest exodus experienced by any state, mainly because of high taxes and a lack of jobs. If we do not provide tax relief immediately, more families and businesses will be forced to leave.

To get an idea of just how over-taxed our residents and businesses are, here are some figures:

· In 2010, New Yorkers had to work 113 days, until April 23rd, until they earned enough money to pay all their combined taxes.

· Estimated at 11.7% of income, New York’s state and local tax burden percentage in 2008 was the 2nd highest nationwide (following only New Jersey), well above the national average of 9.7%.

· New York is home to all 9 out of 10 counties in the nation with the highest property taxes measured as a percentage of home value.

· Over a 11 year period (2000-2010), 114 bills containing unfunded mandates were enacted into law in New York, for a total cost of $78 billion.

· By far, New York’s largest unfunded mandate on municipalities each year is Medicaid spending. The municipal share of Medicaid spending for the 2010-11 fiscal year was $7.3 billion.

· In 2008, New York’s combined federal, state and local spending on Medicaid was the highest in the nation at $47.6 billion, spending more than Florida and Texas combined. California, with nearly double the population of New York, spent $38.7 billion.

The problem is pretty clear: New York taxes too much and at the same time, places too much burden on local municipalities to meet its mandates. Hard working people are getting taxed out of their homes, and the issue is compounded by the fact that local governments must raise taxes to meet the state’s requirements.

Something needs to be done. That’s why I support capping property taxes at 2% accompanied by significant mandate reform. Specifically, I propose requiring any state mandate that is imposed on a locality or a school district and costs more than $10,000 annually to be funded by the state. Furthermore, counties should be able to opt out of optional Medicaid services. New York State provides services above and beyond what is necessary for Medicaid and what other states provide.

In fact, a team has been formed to find ways to reduce the costs and increase the quality in the Medicaid program for the upcoming 2011-12 fiscal year. The Governor’s office recently announced this redesign team in conjunction with plans to reform our state budget. The public is encouraged to participate and weigh in with their suggestions on the Governor’s website. That form can be accessed at https://apps.nyhealth.gov/health_care/medicaid/redesign/contact_form.action. I would encourage you to participate in the survey form if you have some ideas on how to restructure or change Medicaid.

I am hopeful that the Governor, Assembly and the Senate can come to a sensible compromise on property taxes and state mandates that finally provide relief to New York’s over-taxed residents.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns regarding this issue, or any other matter. I can be reached at 315-287-2384 or blankenbushk@assembly.state.ny.us.

Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush