Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Memo To Suozzi: Don't Link Property Tax To Income Tax. . .

. . .Unless The Property Tax Is Replaced By An Income Tax

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi railed against a tax increase on residents with incomes of $250,000 or more (the so-called "fair share tax"), saying New Yorkers should "revolt" if there is an increase in the income tax without a corresponding cap on -- or some sort of stabilization of -- the property tax.

Why tie an income tax on the wealthy -- the 3.2% of New Yorkers who, for decades, have enjoyed generous tax breaks afforded through lucrative loopholes, for which the other 96.8% of us pay handily -- to the onerous property tax, which burdens residential property owners, particularly those in Nassau County, most unfairly?

What has one tax (based solely on income) got to do with the other tax (based solely on the assessed value of one's property)? Absolutely nothing!

Of course, mention taxes, of any variety, and the ire of the general populace is raised, every feather ruffled. "Revolt!"

Revolt, indeed.

What is most revolting is the failure of state, county and local government to take any meaningful remedial action -- whether by cap, consolidation, cost reduction, or elimination -- that would effectively reduce local property taxes.

Instead, it is study, conclude, report, and then, when nothing constructive happens, shift the focus away from the skyrocketing property tax -- which is decimating homeowners on Long Island, particularly in these difficult financial times -- onto a suggested increase of the income tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers.

Yes, it would be nice if we didn't have to tax the rich at a higher rate than we tax the middle class. In fact, it would be wonderful if there was no income tax at all. Keep every dollar in pocket, and everybody goes home happy.

In reality, every New Yorker must pay his or her fair share when it comes to financing the objectives of a democratic society [though some of us wish we had the line-item veto], meaning that, here in America, the rich are called upon to pay more than the poor. Certainly, the wealthy should, at the very least, pay their fair share.

The Community Alliance supports the fair share tax, and urges the New York State legislature to act accordingly -- or to act at all, for that matter.

We also call for, as a separate and distinct issue, true property tax relief, substantive rather than pro forma. Toward that end, the consideration of a local progressive income tax to replace the regressive property tax, among other reforms, must be on the table.

The undo burden placed upon homeowners to carry schools, towns, counties and special districts needs to be addressed with more than studies by Blue Ribbon commissions, ersatz relief in the form of STAR rebates, and mere rhetoric by elected officials -- well-intentioned as it may be -- calling for a taxpayer revolt.

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