I must be perfectly candid. I have been roundly criticized by some newspaper columnists and talk show hosts because I have had the audacity to tell the truth. A colleague in the State Senate, who is from downstate, recently said to me, "You can’t tell the truth, people will not understand!" All that aside, I will continue to tell the truth. It is what I have been elected to do, and is imperative that our citizens have unbiased, objective and honest information at their disposal in order for them to base personal and professional decisions.
Information within this monthly column will not be heard or discussed in the daily press, and you may not agree with what I am going to say. New York State, since George Pataki has been Governor, has passed more tax cuts than any state in the Union ever has. Over $120 Billion dollars worth have been returned to business and residential taxpayers. Lets not rest on our laurels, we still have a lot more to cut and this year’s state budget that was passed by the State Senate and State Assembly includes even more tax cuts for our property taxpayers.
This year’s state budget was created in an open and transparent process that I have not seen in all my years in the State Senate. Republicans and Democrats decided it was again a priority to significantly help real property taxpayers. Although, all of our property taxpayers believe that their property taxes are too high, the numbers indicate that they are low compared to other parts of the state. However, I firmly believe that we must continue to reduce the tax burden and that is what our state budget agreement did.
Our taxpayers want accountability and results. This budget represented a lengthy process of public hearings and discussions about our priorities and it delivered results in the form of tax cuts that will return money to families and help make New York more economically competitive, and important investments in education, health care and other areas that will improve and protect our region’s quality of life. The State has a multi-billion dollar surplus and my priority was to return as much of that money to the taxpayers as possible. The budget will return more than $4.1 billion to the hardworking, overburdened taxpayers of New York over the next two years. The highlight is the Senate’s plan to provide almost $2 billion in direct rebates to property taxpayers. We also succeeded in eliminating the personal income tax marriage penalty, providing a child education tax credit to parents of children in school and the budget agreement allowed the sales tax on clothing/shoe purchases under $110 to permantly end April 1st of 2006 (now in effect).
School children throughout the State will benefit from a record education aid increase of almost $1.3 billion, as well as an investment of $2.6 billion in new statewide school construction aid. Our schools must have the resources they need to educate our children. This plan will help build new classrooms and ensure that money goes into those classrooms. And lets not forget restorations in health care that will ensure that our hospitals, nursing homes and emergency rooms stay open to provide care for all New Yorkers and that home care is provided for the sick and disabled. Maintaining access to quality, affordable health care was an important.
Did we overspend? Some could argue we did. But I will stand with the real property taxpayers, not the wealthy nay-sayers.