A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward
At the start of the 2019 legislative session, I pledged to advance policies designed to improve New York’s economy, help reduce the crushing tax burden, and combat population loss. Unfortunately, that agenda did not mesh with the plans the New York City-centric leaders unleashed at the Capitol.
With liberal one-party rule taking over in Albany, it was evident very early during the session that the priorities I hear from people every day were not on the minds of the new majority in charge. Property tax relief, help for our small businesses, and strong public protection measures were ignored. Instead, we were treated to $1 billion in new taxes, driver’s licenses and free college for illegal immigrants, New York City style rent control, the demise of property tax relief checks, and unfriendly farm labor regulations which will hurt agriculture.
Despite being outnumbered, I joined with other like-minded Senate Republicans to offer positive, pro-active ideas to jumpstart our economy, tackle our affordability problem, and put the rights of crime victims and families first.
Here are just a few of the proposals that I advocated in favor of that were rejected by the liberal majority:
- A comprehensive package of tax cuts to help millions of hardworking New Yorkers;
- Help for small businesses including a plan to cut taxes and allow small businesses to participate in the STAR Program;
- A sweeping “Victims’ Justice Agenda” to restore common sense to our parole system, support law enforcement, and protect crime victims;
- An end to the 2% gross receipts tax on utilities to help reduce energy costs;
- A loan forgiveness program for recent college graduates who choose to stay and work in New York;
- A school safety package that would enhance mental health counseling while funding a School Resource Officer program;
- State funding for local governments to pay for early voting and other unfunded state mandates;
- An end to unfunded mandates and an assurance that no new laws will be approved in Albany that pass costs on to our local governments and schools, and ultimately, our taxpayers;
- A two-percent cap on state spending;
- Strict campaign finance reforms that would have prohibited corporations, labor organizations, limited liability companies (LLCs), and other corporate entities from making campaign contributions.
On a positive note, I was pleased the Senate approved several bills to improve limousine safety and crack down on annoying telemarketing phone calls. Unfortunately, the state assembly did not pass accompanying legislation so these matters will have to be revisited again next year.
Additionally, the two-percent property tax cap is now permanent. I have long supported this tax relief measure and have helped pass Senate legislation on a number of previous occasions to guarantee this savings tool. However, as I have said in the past, for the property tax cap to truly deliver we need to end unfunded state mandates that tie the hands of local government officials. No mandate relief measures were passed this year and in fact, local governments will now have to prepare for plenty of new costs thanks to the state budget and other Albany missteps.
New York ranks first in the nation for people moving out of state, and 40 percent of current New Yorkers believe they can no longer afford to live here. State government needs to pay attention to those facts and change course. Raising taxes and spending your dollars on programs that do not meet demonstrated needs will only exacerbate the problems we are now facing.
In the months ahead, I will be meeting with constituents to discuss what is needed to improve their daily lives, upgrade our communities, and make New York a destination location rather than a departure point. Moving forward, I will continue to focus on the concerns important to those who live and work in the 51st Senate District.