Al D'Amato, in a Long Island Information Network blog post, opines on taxes, the forgotten middle class, and the dragon rearing its ugly head
A better spokesman for change to the status quo there couldn't be!
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Alphonse D'Amato:
Forgotten middle class needs new tax system
By Alfonse D'Amato
Twenty-five years ago, when I began my Senate career, the burning economic issue of the day was inflation in all its ugly manifestations, including sky-high interest rates that were crushing home owners. The forgotten middle class was being squeezed out of the housing market on Long Island by economic forces that threatened the very American ideal of home ownership. Yet with diligent leadership and prudent fiscal management the inflation dragon was slayed and home ownership soared on Long Island.
Today, a dragon is rearing its ugly head again. This time the middle class is being devoured by the enormous increases in property taxes on Long Island. It is not uncommon today for a family that was able to buy a house in the 1980s to find itself in the untenable situation of paying property taxes that dwarf their mortgage payments. A young family just starting out faces the twin demons of astronomical housing prices and stratospheric property taxes.
Now, the forgotten middle class is searching for leadership at all levels – federal, state, and local – to address the most basic of questions: how long will I be able to live in my house when property taxes are spiraling out of control? How did we come to this scary state and how can we get out of it? Here are some observations:
Local governments and school districts have incurred long-term obligations that are clearly unsustainable. Pension and health-care costs are threatening to roar out of control and saddle Long Islanders with a mountain of “unfunded liabilities.” One of the greatest urgencies is for municipalities and school districts to put the brakes on these runaway costs by requiring new hires to accept much more realistic pension and health-care benefits. The taxpaying public should not be asked to pay confiscatory levels of property taxes to support benefits for public employees that are more generous than those they have for themselves.
We must also realize that the inordinate dependence on property taxes to fund education is no longer defensible. A fairer system of taxation must be devised that bases school funding on the broader economic measurements of ability to pay instead of home values and property taxes. And these reforms should be tied to clear restraints on the possible future increases in levels of taxation on Long Island, so that we do not eventually price ourselves out of competition with the rest of suburbanized America.
Local governments and school districts must also face the responsibility to tighten their management and their spending to reflect the limits on taxpayers’ ability to pay. Recent audits of Long Island schools in particular have traced a troubling pattern of sloppy financial oversight, outright fraud and inattention to management practices that can save hard dollars without compromising their core educational mission.
If we do all these things to restrain the growth of property taxes on Long Island, we can eventually replicate the stunning recovery and growth that characterized our area in earlier trying fiscal times. Voters expect the best: uncompromised essential services, thoughtful management, and recognition that their ability to pay is not endless. They will surely punish politicians who fail to deliver a more equitable taxing structure for education and local government. But they will reward leadership, vision, and creativity with yet another burst of economic growth that will lift all Long Island into the forefront of America’s mighty store of prosperity and well being.
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Is this Senator Alphonse D'Amato, icon of New York's Republican Party, suggesting that we replace the onerous property tax with "A fairer system of taxation must be devised that bases school funding on the broader economic measurements of ability to pay instead of home values...?" That sounds like an income tax to us, Al. [Please don't let your colleagues in the GOP hear such talk!]
And did we read Al correctly when he writes, "(voters) will surely punish politicians who fail to deliver a more equitable taxing structure for education and local government?" Nah. Then we'd actually have to vote the bums out come November.
Of course, Al touches but the tip of the fiscal iceberg in his brief foray into high tax New York. Still, it is a step in the right direction and a refreshing change from the rhetoric of failure that has long plagued New York.
Al D'Amato. Dragon slayer and defender of property tax reform. Who knew?