Albany, N.Y.— State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) today called Governor Eliot Spitzer’s first State of the State message to the Legislature "a solid beginning that will hopefully spark widespread, bipartisan action on the challenges facing upstate New York."
Winner praised the new governor, in particular, for his emphasis on keeping property tax relief and rural, upstate economic development at the top of the state government agenda.
"I’d like to see us begin the Spitzer administration by joining together on an aggressive effort to enhance local property tax relief to local taxpayers," said Winner. "For the well-being of our upstate counties and local property taxpayers, a focus on how to provide additional property tax relief remains priority No. 1. Governor Spitzer is taking office with a sweeping range of bold new ideas and new calls for reform, many of which are good and positive for the future. But there’s an old mountain of property taxes still standing in the way of truly meaningful change in New York State, and we can’t lose sight of it. We’ve been hammering away at this property tax burden for years, and we can’t stop now."
Senate Republicans recently set the stage for this year’s property tax relief discussion by proposing a three-point strategy to build on last year’s Rebate-NY property tax rebate program by tripling the current rebate, giving local voters a greater say in local tax rates and establishing a Blue Ribbon Commission on Property Tax Reform to further explore ways to reduce the property tax burden.
In today’s message to the Legislature, Spitzer called for $6 billion in property tax cuts over the next three years.
For upstate economic development Spitzer is calling for, among other initiatives, a special office to coordinate upstate New York job development strategies, along with comprehensive reform of the state’s system of workers’ compensation.
Winner said that he and his Republican colleagues in the Senate will also continue to emphasize upstate economic development throughout the coming session and stressed that the Spitzer address focused on many issues that he and his Senate Majority colleagues have prioritized over the past several years including tax relief, increased aid to localities, improving the state’s transportation infrastructure, Wicks Law and Workers’ Compensation reform, farm preservation and profitability, and crime fighting. As chairman of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, Winner said that he would be using the joint, bipartisan commission to continue to advance rural economic development policies that he believes are vital to the future of the Southern Tier-Finger Lakes region and all of upstate New York, such as the expansion of broadband services to rural areas. Winner sponsored a new law in 2006 directing several state agencies to soon issue a report recommending ways to expand high-speed Internet access to rural areas -- a priority that Spitzer also reiterated in today’s message.
"The new governor has pledged to sweep in a new agenda in New York government, and I hope the Spitzer broom is capable of pushing through likely downstate Assembly resistance to achieve a real, meaningful agenda to address the challenges facing upstate New York," said Winner. "I’m ready, willing and able to help push that broom. There’s clearly common ground between us."