In press conferences across his district, New York State Senator James L. Seward (R-C-I/Milford) outlined his 2006 legislative program, with the centerpiece an on-time budget and property tax relief. Seward unveiled his agenda as he toured his district.
"We face challenges in our area that need tough leadership, real change and a willingness to confront the status quo," Seward said. "My priority this year is simple: protecting the hardworking, overburdened New York taxpayer as we adopt the 3 Rs: Revitalize our economy, renew our commitment to tax cuts, and recommit to helping our students achieve more in the classroom."
The Seward 2006 Action Agenda
1. Creating new jobs. Our area still struggles to compete with other states in job creation. We educate our young people only to see them leave for other parts of our state or country for good jobs. In 2005, we eliminated the single sales factor and cut the top tax rate, which small businesses and sole proprietors pay. But more must be done. We must create job opportunities so that people can have the career of their choice. We must focus on helping small businesses grow and prosper in technology, manufacturing, tourism and retail. Small businesses are the key to helping grow our upstate economy, and that means our small business owners need lower taxes, lower energy costs, workers' compensation relief, and affordable health insurance. I am renewing my effort to pass my "Small Business STAR 2006" plan to give small businesses relief from local school taxes. In addition, I will fight for an extension of a law I won to give sole proprietors access to group health insurance plans.
2. An on-time state budget without new taxes. We achieved an on-time budget in 2005 and we must do so again, using bipartisan conference committees and an open process. My goal is a budget on-time that does not take one penny more from the pockets of state taxpayers. Last week the governor said the state has a $2 billion surplus because revenues are increasing, and that means there is no reason on earth to hike taxes. The senate estimates there is close to $4 billion in wasteful spending in the Medicaid program alone, which also means that the budget should not and must not raise taxes. New Yorkers pay too much in taxes right now, and I will fight for a budget that offers smart government spending, offers real value for the tax dollar, and is accountable to the taxpayers. We can cut wasteful state spending, eliminate fraud and abuse in government programs, and keep this pledge: "Not a penny more in taxes."
3. Genuine property tax relief. Property taxes in New York are the highest in the country. Taxpayers have reached the limit on what they can pay. They're fed up and they need relief. When combined with local sales, income and other taxes, the local tax burden in New York averaged $6,377 per household, the highest in the continental U.S. and more than twice the national average of $2,952.
I will fight for a senate plan that offers more than $2.4 billion in school and municipal property tax relief over the next three years, including direct rebate checks to property taxpayers, and expanding the STAR program and the property tax "circuit breaker." Along with what we accomplished last year in beginning a state takeover of local Medicaid costs and the Family Health Plus program, we have the opportunity and obligation to chop at least $2.4 billion from taxpayers' property tax burden.
4. Wise education spending that supports teachers, provides value for the dollar, and helps kids achieve more in the classroom. Our upstate schools work hard to meet state requirements and provide students with a good education. Up against bureaucratic mandates from out-of-touch regents and Albany pencil-pushers, local schools need maximum flexibility with state dollars to help students achieve, support teachers, and give students the skills they need to succeed in our economy. Let's see if we can reward schools and teachers whose students outperform state requirements.
We must support hardworking, enterprising families who are up against a struggling economy, higher fuel costs, and back breaking taxes.
We must revitalize our economy, renew our commitment to reducing taxes, and recommit to helping our students achieve more in the classroom.