It’s déjà vu all over again. More than a decade ago, our economy seemed doomed. Unemployment was high, housing was stagnant, and people saw their economic security threatened. Typically, New York State was paralyzed by Albany when we needed them the most. Far from the conducive atmosphere needed to create trust in and hope for our future.
I found myself in Albany at that time, working overtime to put together an idea to help our struggling families. With sheer determination and two colleagues, we developed a plan, gained support, passed it through the State Legislature and witnessed it signed into law. Today, struggling taxpayers throughout the state still rely on this single act for tax relief. It remains the largest tax decrease in New York State history and because of this, I was named one of the top tax-fighters in the United States by Americans for Tax Reform. This bold piece of legislation is known to New York taxpayers as the STAR Program.
We have gone through a boom and bust cycle again, but this time New York State faces real challenges recovering. Let’s examine a couple of the factors that affect the ‘state of our State’.
We just lost two congressional seats as a result of the latest census. This is more evidence that people are fleeing our state for brighter economic pastures. A recent Marist survey showed that 1/3 of younger New Yorkers plan on leaving the state to find economic satisfaction elsewhere. If we continue on this trajectory, our tax base will continue to diminish. This further strain on our state budgets make delivering services even harder.
But the number one reason people have chosen to leave our state is highlighted in another survey by the Tax Foundation. According to the survey, New York has the worst State Business Tax Climate. In fact, over the past four years New York has dropped each year from 45th place in 2008, to 47th in 2009, 49th in 2010 and finally, to dead last in 2011.
The greatest danger is doing nothing. Our elected officials in Albany have abandoned bold leadership. Although we have witnessed some legislation masquerading as reform, there are far too many holes leaving New Yorkers the ones falling through the cracks.
It is time for us to adopt real tax reform. Time to find ways to pay for services, but lighten the tax burden on working families. Time to make New York State more attractive for businesses. How can we – New Yorkers – expect our economy to flourish when our politicians keep raising tax rates? When they raise tax rates, they stifle economic activity – taxpayers, both businesses and individuals, leave the state – and tax revenues decline. Instead of stopping the bleed, our New York politicians respond by raising the tax rates even higher, causing more taxpayers to flee the state.
For this reason, my new challenge is to go beyond what I had accomplished with the STAR Program. I will work to find and deliver real tax reform to real taxpayers. No smoke and mirrors. No loop holes. It is time to construct a state tax code that reevaluates the way in which we levy taxes and pay for our services. The present system of property tax collection is failing, hurting our seniors and young families. And despite the pain we endure, our property tax system still under performs. If we reform our tax code, New York State can once again be an engine for growth, attract and retain the best and brightest people and companies, and do so with a far less burdensome tax system. The STAR Program was only act one. Act two promises to be far more sweeping and just as relied on to help rebuild our economic security.
Pat Manning served in the NYS Assembly from 1995 to 2006 and co-authored the STAR Program. He is currently running for his old seat in New York’s 105th Assembly District.