Friday, December 04, 2009

Promises, Promises

Does GOP "Tax Revolt" Portend A Return To The Days Of Smoke And Mirrors?

What we at The Community Alliance have been saying, going on six years now, is capsulized in a New York Times editorial. One that postulates that frustratrated, if not angry taxpayers took aim at the wrong target in the just past election, and put behind the driver's seat those who not only swerved the car off the road into a ditch in the first place, but moreover, in the ensuing years, couldn't even sit tall enough in the public saddle to reach the steering wheel, with legs that neither touched the accelerator nor slammed on the brakes.

It would appear that, yet again, we have seen the enemy, and, quess what? He is still us!
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From The New York Times:

A Misguided Tax Revolt

Thomas Suozzi has just lost his job, voted out as Nassau County executive by about 380 votes in an election that turned on voters’ frustration and anger about high property taxes. It was a victory for free-form anxiety, but a loss for Nassau County, whose tax-weary residents went after the wrong target.

Mr. Suozzi was elected in 2001 to pull Nassau out of a fiscal ditch, and he did — over the hard-core opposition of an intransigent Republican minority. He brimmed with ideas to reinvigorate the local economy and was an early leader of the crusade to repair Albany’s rancid political culture. He had big plans for a third term, but they were whomped by the recession and a little-known Republican, Edward Mangano, who also ran for the newly invented Tax Revolt Party.

Mr. Suozzi was not alone in the New York region. In one election night voters fired County Executive Andrew Spano in Westchester, Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Democratic candidates in local races all over. The Nassau County Legislature is in Republican hands again, after 10 years. Nassau’s comptroller, the Democrat Howard Weitzman, fell to a little-known Republican.

The Republicans took the simplistic path to success, railing against taxes to turn voters’ pain into votes. But their logic was grossly misplaced. Nassau’s property taxes are crushingly high, but the county portion of the bill, Mr. Suozzi’s responsibility, is only about 16 percent. More than 60 percent goes to school districts, whose bloated budgets voters routinely support. Twenty percent pays for a galaxy of special taxing entities, like garbage districts and fire departments, that voters have never seen fit to consolidate or close despite Mr. Weitzman’s withering audits.

The prime reformer for cutting taxes and putting the county economy on solid footing has been Mr. Suozzi. He led a campaign to curb costly state mandates on local governments and pushed an ambitious plan for development in faded downtowns and in central Nassau.

What did Mr. Mangano offer? A pledge to repeal an energy tax that would immediately blow a $40 million hole in the county budget and imperil its bond rating. Vague promises to cut spending in a campaign Newsday’s editorial page called “idea free.” The Republican who unseated Mr. Spano, Rob Astorino, is going to lead a county government that he once said should confine itself to tasks like running the airport and fixing roads. Christopher Christie, the governor-elect of New Jersey, never explained how he plans to cut taxes at a time when New Jersey’s budget is battered by the recession.

Decades of Republican majorities in Nassau County kept taxes down by borrowing and borrowing until the crisis exploded. Mr. Corzine fell into a hole created by the reckless borrowing and tax-cutting of the state’s last Republican governor, Christine Todd Whitman.

Voters in these areas should hope their newly elected leaders don’t actually try to keep their promises.

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