Stabilizing State Budget Revenue Must be a Priority

The state budget deficit and the uncertainty of New York getting its fair share of federal dollars will make for a difficult state budget year. Added to that is the unfair shift of the federal tax burden onto New York taxpayers. All to pay for a steep corporate tax cut.

As we address this, we cannot fall into the trap of cutting state services or assistance to education, health care and local governments. Given that the burden on local taxpayers is now greater than ever, the state’s role in providing services and improving infrastructure is in turn more important than ever. It is critical that the state stabilize its revenue policy by enacting more progressive taxation of individuals and corporations.

The Governor outlined several components of a revenue strategy, including ways to address the federal situation, that we must pursue. The possibility of restructuring the state’s tax system in a way that shields New York’s taxpayers from the federal changes that will disadvantage all us, also must be explored.

There is no room however, to allow any reduction of state revenue or the further reduction of state services. Decades of privatization, closing state facilities and not following through on promised development of state services for mental health, developmental disabilities, addiction or homelessness has resulted in many of the problems that plague our communities today as outlined by the Governor last week. More cuts in state programs will exacerbate, not help these individuals.

At the same time, the needs of our communities continue to grow. Whether transportation, affordable housing, infrastructure, access to adequate health care, aid to school districts, law enforcement or addressing poverty, the state must do more to assist our local communities, big and small.

We also cannot continue to restrict the ability of local governments and schools to provide services for themselves. Tax caps, freezes and forced merger or consolidation of local services all remove taxpayers from the decision-making process and too often result in fewer services and lower quality. Our communities are capable to determine what level of service they need. Instead of tying their hands, the state should be helping communities ensure the proper level of service is provided.

Mario Cilento, President