Saying "I wasn't re-elected to defend the status quo," State Senator James L. Seward outlined his 2007 legislative agenda at a press conference today, citing property taxes as his top priority.
"Three issues top our list of New Year's resolutions: No new taxes and fees; sigificant and additional property tax relief; and changes in state government," Seward said.
No new taxes. "We must pass a state budget without new taxes or hidden fee increases," Seward said. "We did it in 2006, and we can and should do it again. People can not tolerate new tax upon new fee -- they pay taxes every waking moment on their car, their gasoline, their morning coffee, their paper clips and their kids' books. We must reverse the state's tax-tax, fee-fee mentality."
Property taxes. Seward said the state must take bolder steps to cut property taxes. "Yes, the STAR program and this year's rebates help. But we must do more. Governor Spitzer says he wants $6 billion in property tax relief over the next three years. And beginning on day one, I will hold him to it and see if we can go further. The senate has already announced our plan for installment number one this year -- $2.6 billion in new property tax relief."
State government reform. Seward called for reform of state government in key areas. "Reform and changes in state government are essential if we are to restore trust in our government. On the heels of a comptroller's resignation and other investigations in the news, people wonder if their government is as good as they are. We must have key changes, like an on-time budget and a process that guarantees that result each year." Seward also called for transparency in the budget, with each expenditure and community grant lined out in the budget with an end to "lump sum" pools of state money. He said that bipartisan legislative conference committees were essential to producing results.
Reviving the upstate economy. Seward said that he would fight for three key pieces in boosting jobs and promoting business growth: lower energy costs; reform of workers' compensation and help for the state's dairy farmers.
"No new taxes. Genuine and structural property tax relief. Reform of the budget and transparency in governing. These must be our first and top efforts," Seward said.
Seward added that support for local schools and access to health care would continue to be concerns, especially as the budget is reviewed.
"We must be about those things that concern families; the issues discussed during dinner at the kitchen table. Concerns like dealing with the worries and fears of those caring for an aging parent; trying to put a child through college, working to keep the small business going for another year, hoping to keep the lights on in the cattle barn and the dairy herd together. There is much to be done, and we must work together to achieve real results for the people of the state this year," Seward concluded.