First, Get 6 Billion Dollars!
Governor Eliot Spitzer wants to reduce New York's infamous property taxes by some 6 billion dollars over the next three years. The Republican-controlled State Senate is drafting a plan to triple -- yes, triple -- the property tax "rebate" most New York homeowners received in 2006. Then there's the pledge to make a significant "investment" in our public schools, all while holding that proverbial line on taxes.
So, the question before the house is -- where does the State get all this money to pay for property tax cuts and increased aid to education? Good question!
After all, the $200,000 recouped from former Comptroller Alan Hevesi will only take us so far (with or without a driver), and there's only so much blood one can take out of health care. Just how much can be squeezed out of the money sponge by trimming waste, consolidating offices and departments, and clamping down on Medicaid fraud? [The answer, actually, is quite a bit of money, if cost-saving measures are implemented, and not just talked about.]
Still, both the Governor and the Legislature are talking about quite a bit of spending -- something that would quickly eat up the 2006 surplus and, quite likely, add millions (if not more) to the State's already incredibly large debt load.
All of this reminds us of the old Steve Martin routine, "How To Make A Million Dollars." "First," said Steve, "get a million dollars..."
Eliot Spitzer's State of the State address proferred some ambitious and lofty initiatives. Frankly, we haven't heard a State of the State address that hasn't. What remains to be seen is whether the Governor and the leaders of the Senate and Assembly can lay aside partisanship -- and perhaps $300 million in member-item monies that is approved and spent outside the budget process -- to reach a consensus and package a deal that provides real property tax relief, a true investment in our public schools, and "no new taxes" for the citizens of New York.
The Governor's proposed budget -- due out in just a few weeks -- should give us an inkling into what NY's chief executive has in mind.
Meanwhile, a closer look at the Governor's property tax relief plan gives us some idea as to costs and benefits. Now, if we only had the money to pay for it. . .
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Spitzer Property Tax Relief Plan