Surveys indicate New York still has a long way to go to improve in Governor's final year of first term


WILLIAMSVILLE, NY - Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Western New York on Thursday to discuss the state budget.

Cuomo spoke before several hundred invited guests at the Main Transit Fire Hall as part of a statewide swing to tout the spending plan, and the fact that a budget was adopted on time for the fourth consecutive year.

Cuomo continues to insist that the state, after decades of having a "spending addiction", has finally got its spending habits under control under his watch, even though the budget actually increases spending by 1.2%.

However, the budget keeps spending increases under 2 percent for the fourth straight year.

At the same time, in the final year of his first term as Governor, during which he has consistently pledged to make New York "open for business," the state remains ranked among the worst in the nation in terms of attracting companies and jobs.

Its onerous tax climate is most often sited in surveys conducted by The Tax Foundation, Chief Executive Magazine, and Wallet Hub, which found it to be the worst state for taxes for individuals as well.

Como noted property taxes, from which local governments primarily derive their revenue, far exceed the amount the state collects through its primary revenue stream: income taxes.

While the governor declared property tax to be the "worst" among the variety of taxes New York residents pay, critics say Cuomo has done little if anything to curb them.

Further, they claim the promise of meaningful mandate relief that came with Cuomo's mandate for a 2% cap on how much a local government can raise property taxes annually, has been an empty one thus far.

In Monroe County, where Cuomo stopped earlier in the day, County Executive Maggie Brooks made note of that in her State of the County address Wednesday night, where she said the state continues to pass the cost of its mandated programs down to local governments.

"You've heard me say it before so here it comes again: mandates equal high taxes. It's because of the growing cost and burden of nine State mandated programs that pay for everything from Medicaid to welfare," Brooks said in her address. "We need to help Governor Cuomo understand that local governments are not the reason New York's property taxes are among the highest in the country. Fix the mandates and you fix New York's property tax problem."

Foisting the cost of state mandates upon local governments, Brooks and others contend, looks good for the state in attempting to demonstrate its efforts to reign in spending under its own budget. But it only adds to the bottom line of local governments....and in either case taxpayers are the losers.

And while the Governor often touts passage of his 2% property tax proposal as a measure of controlling spending increases by municipalities and school districts, it only can do so if the local governments don't vote to override the cap, as many have done.

Looking ahead, according to Long Island Newsday, the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission has expressed concern about the 2015-16 fiscal year, after the 2014-15 election year budget. The 2014-15 budget pushes the cost of much of the promised tax cuts and part of the 5 percent increase in school aid into the next fiscal year, when a temporary millionaires tax extended by Cuomo and the legislature that brings in $2 billion a year is due to expire.

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