How much better are we in the new New York?
Well, looking at all of the ads on television, costing thousands and thousands of our tax dollars for what amounts to free campaign material, I'd say we ought to be much happier! We're open for business, we're attracting new jobs, taxes are going down and life is good.
Or is it?
Taxes have not gone down. The governor did place a freeze, or cap, on school taxes, but it turns out that can be altered, and nothing was done to help the schools pay for all of the unfunded mandates, so what's improved there? Not too much from what I've seen happening locally.
How about our corporate taxes? Well, we do have a program to attract new businesses, with taxes forgiven from five to 10 years, as long as they produce a certain number of jobs. So I have to ask, why would any business come here knowing that in five to 10 years they'll be taxed at rates higher than anywhere else in the country?
This might shock Albany, but if new businesses came in here and were not taxed forever provided they created a certain number of jobs, now that might work. I'm not an economist by profession, nor do I have a degree in economics, but it would seem to me that companies moving here, although not paying any property taxes but creating lots of jobs, those hundreds of workers earning and spending money would have to help our economic outlook.
It might be unfair to existing businesses, but you have to start somewhere. Of course, that's only property taxes. It doesn't help that we have some of the highest gasoline, gas and electric bills in the country either, mostly due to more taxes saddled on to your bill.
Remember that article I wrote about the governor creating a committee to investigate each and every accusation of abuse in our systems for the mentally disabled? I did predict that these people would make work for themselves, and they have. Dozens of employees locally are routinely reassigned until the investigations are over with, all with pay, which is fair since they haven't been convicted of anything, and then after weeks of wasted money, they've generally been returned to work. In one instance I know of, the client doing the accusing was finally moved after more than a year of constant false accusations and thousands of dollars wasted.
I'm betting my original prediction will be right, that this committee will be expanded with more people and more money to be spent doing nothing more or better than the old system accomplished. And all due to a few newspaper articles in the New York Times that really only mentioned one serious case that somehow fell through the cracks, just one. For that we're spending millions of dollars and making a difficult job impossible.
Then there's the Peace Bridge. It amazes me that we as a country can fund and build bridges to nowhere, but seem unable to improve traffic flow over a major entryway into our country that generates millions of dollars, much of it for New York. So, how does our governor handle the problem? Why he starts an international war of words, basically, with people who couldn't care less about his elected and exalted status in New York, and we're about to lose any agreements we've already had to help things along. Yep, smart move there.
As far as I know, nothing has changed as to plans for buying electricity from Canada for New York City, and more from New Jersey, while allowing private industry to make decisions harmful to the state overall but helpful to themselves, financially. Smart, very smart. We'll give tax breaks to lure new businesses here, while allowing existing businesses to die.
We've all seen the many ads promoting tourism dollars, but the people voting to finance those ads seem to miss on where those dollars come from. We made it more difficult to come here to ride snowmobiles, and now another clueless politician from downstate wants to make it more difficult for boaters. Yes indeed, that'll help tourism! Heck, why not make everyone driving through New York get a New York state driver's license!? I'm sure tourism will improve dramatically soon after.
I'd love to see a downstate politician propose a new tax on anyone going to New York City. That would at least allow me to believe they were just incompetent, maybe even stupid, as opposed to just totally ignorant of everything west of Albany.
I haven't seen anything that shows me that our current governor is doing anything differently from any of his predecessors relative to packing office buildings in Albany with political hacks to reward them for campaign support. I'd also like to point out that there are serious flaws in our governor's attempts to get out of the mentally disabled business and turn it all over to private agencies, all while cutting funding to those agencies. Yep, that'll work.
The money to improve Ralph Wilson Stadium while cutting funding to schools, local governments and the like makes me sick. But then, if I knew where every dime of New York's money was going, I'd probably feel a lot worse than I do about that.
As far as I know, there are no proposals anywhere to reduce Medicaid spending, or the manner of its funding, which is the main reason most local governments are broke. I don't see any cuts to Albany's spending on itself, for pay and benefits to our elected officials and their staff. I don't see any statewide efforts to force school consolidations or address funding that places ridiculous burdens on local school districts and tax payers least able to afford it, the ever increasing fixed income retired people, who no longer get any raises.
We're going to have casinos! Yes, as soon as it passes a referendum, two years I believe that takes, a brand new economic engine will be at our disposal! Our taxes will be lowered due to all of that money floating through the system!
Does anyone remember similar tales of joy when the Lottery began? The Lottery brings in more money than ever, had a gigantic administrative cost eating up the profits, and taxes have been rising each and every year since its inception. Why would anyone think a casino will be any different, especially since there are reams of studies showing otherwise, that in fact casinos tend to drain every dime of disposable income there is from the surrounding area.
There is that plan for building around our colleges, based on efforts elsewhere. Many of the so-called success stories were and are totally unique to the area and school, such as Silicon Valley and Stanford. Stanford initiated the effort, not the state. Stanford owned the land that was leased to the new dot-com companies, a specialty of Stanford graduates. Don't hold your breath for Fredonia State. So far, they have the incubator.
Permanently lowered taxes, not frozen, LOWERED, and a mindset that employee payrolls will replace property taxes on businesses as an economic engine. I don't see that anywhere.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org