Wednesday, January 14, 2009

NY Deserves a Special Election for US Senate Seat Vacancy

While Governor David Paterson prepares to announce the candidate he has chosen to replace Senator Hillary Clinton as New York’s junior U.S. Senator, I unveiled legislation that would end the pattern of “accidental” elected officials who entered into office without a mandate from the people of New York State.

With the Governor, Comptroller and now a U.S. Senator coming into office through appointment as opposed to democratic election, I introduced a bill that would amend the State’s Public Officers Law to require Special Elections for any vacancies in the office U.S. Senator for New York State.

My bill requires the Governor – within ten days – to call a Special Election within 90 days of the occurrence of a vacancy. If the vacancy were to occur less than 100 days before the annual Primary or General Election, the Special Election would then be held during the regular election cycle. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008


The 137 tax and fee increases within Governor Paterson's 2009-10 Executive Budget will cost the average New York family an extra $3,875.48 annually. This is a "gut punch" to New York's middle class already hurting from a terrible economy, home foreclosures and loss of real wages.

The analysis, compiled by the Assembly Republican Ways and Means Committee, found that Governor Paterson's 137 tax and fee increases - imposed on everything from digital music downloads to soda - could potentially lead to the loss of one-in-ten jobs.

These 137 tax and fee increases sought by Governor Paterson mean state government is digging even deeper into the pockets of New York's middle class families, many of whom are already reeling from the recession. His tax and fee hikes send absolutely the worst possible message, at the worst possible time, for middle class families who are losing their jobs, losing their houses and seeing their incomes and home values decline.

While families cut back and make sacrifices, Governor Paterson would have state government take even more, ultimately deepening and prolonging the recession. All these tax and fee hikes are like declaring war on New York's middle class families.

The following are some of the products and services Governor Paterson's Executive Budget would raise taxes or fees on: cable and satellite television; pay per view movies; cigars; discount coupons; haircuts; beauty salons; health clubs; weight loss programs; fishing; camping; malt-flavored beverages; digital music downloads; drinks from non-diet soda to Gatorade, Hawaiian Punch and Hi-C; beer; wine; car rentals; limousine services; taxis; movies; health
insurance; seed dealers; parents of children with special needs; boilers; explosives; horse entrance fees; sporting events; gasoline; clothing; jewelry; footwear; automobile purchases; registration and driving fees.

According to Stephen Kagann, former state chief economist, every $100 million in new taxes imposed during a recession leads to a loss of 11,400 private sector jobs. Governor Paterson's tax and fee hikes total $6 billion, meaning a loss of 600,000 jobs. When added to the administration's forecast of 180,000 jobs expected to be lost in 2009, it is a very real possibility that one-in-ten jobs in New York State could be threatened. That isn't doomsday - it's an economic apocalypse.

(Click on the chart to enlarge)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How to Save the State Billions of Dollars

In November, I sent a letter to Governor Paterson including the Assembly Republican Conference's proposals to address New York’s fiscal crisis. They are listed below:

- Eliminate Member Items: There is approximately $200 million per year allocated for Member Items for the Legislature and Governor. Elected officials in State government should lead by example and cut the pork;

- Collect sales taxes on Native American lands: New York State needs to enforce the law and collect taxes from purchases made on Native American lands. It is estimated that doing so would generate over $1 billion annually;

- “Sweep” fund balances: To enhance transparency of the budget process, we propose State Agencies provide timely notification – when projects or lines in the State budget are completed – if a fund balance exists, or when a shortfall in funding has occurred. This will allow us to identify any unused or residual taxpayer monies;

- Freeze State employee hiring: To increase State efficiencies and reduce costs, we should continue to support a hard hiring freeze of all State employees;

- Suspend State employee travel: As another method of increasing State efficiencies, all employee travel should be suspended, except for health and safety purposes, until this current financial crisis is resolved;

- Suspend State vehicle purchases: The State should suspend the purchase of new State vehicles, except for health and safely purposes. This could save taxpayers over $500,000 annually;

- Merge State Agencies: Merging the Insurance and Banking Departments into the Office of Financial Services; the Consumer Protection Board with the Department of Law; the Crime Victims Board with the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Racing Reform Program into Racing and Wagering could save nearly $9.8 million;

- Enact a 15% Non-Personal Service (NPS) cut: A 15 percent reduction in all General Fund Non-Personal Service appropriations in every State agency, board, office or department, should be made. This reduction does not seek to eliminate any State workforce jobs. But it would reduce State spending by $416 million;

- Implement the “State Agency Fiscal Efficiency” (S.A.F.E.) Program: This initiative would empower State Agencies to temporarily transition to a four-day work week, where employees would take one day off without pay. Discussion with labor leaders would be necessary. The program would be voluntary;

- Eliminate Reappropriations: After five fiscal years, all cash reappropriations should be eliminated, except for capital projects. If an organization can’t spend all of its appropriated funding within five years of it being provided, those funds should be eliminated; and

- Eliminate “Ghost Ship” Commissions: Our Conference established a W.A.S.T.E. (Waste At State Taxpayer’s Expense) Taskforce, to identify all the State Commissions that still receive State funding even though they have finished their assigned task or are no longer relevant. Eliminating these Commissions would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not more. We all understand Commission members can make a case to continue, but our economic condition must take precedence.

Certainly, this list is by no means exhaustive. Nevertheless, these proposals can serve as a starting point for our continued deliberations as we face one of the most challenging budget cycles in recent memory.

I am confident that if we can set politics aside and move toward bi-partisan solutions, we will ensure our state emerges from the current crisis stronger than ever. Our Assembly Republican Conference is ready, willing and able to meet this challenge by returning fiscal responsibility to state government and, in the process, guaranteeing a better and brighter future for all New Yorkers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Response to the Governor's Budget

Governor Paterson today unveiled his 2009-10 Executive Budget for the Legislature's consideration, nearly a full month before he was constitutionally required to do so. I commend the Governor for bringing a quick start to this budget process. With a state deficit approaching $15 billion, this budget process will be decidedly difficult and painful. The reality is that there are no easy answers or quick fixes.

I am approaching this budget process and the Governor's budget with a focus on three core principles: no new taxes or tax hikes, the need to invest in our Upstate and suburban economies and reining in the size, cost and reach of government. Regrettably, on the first principle, the Governor's budget falls short. Governor Paterson's budget raises taxes - and even imposes new taxes - on middle class families and small businesses by almost $4 billion.

Instead of raising taxes, we need to be reducing them. Cutting taxes, providing overtaxed homeowners a real property tax cap, and investing in jobs to grow our hurting economy - especially in Upstate and the suburbs - those areas should command our attention.

Throughout this upcoming session, I will work with the Governor. New York cannot afford legislators from either party acting as agents of delay or obstruction. We need real leadership, real solutions. We are the Empire State and we will get through this crisis and emerge stronger than before.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I’m calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop any consideration of a proposal that would impose a tax on “livestock emissions. This measure would add another burden on New York’s already beleaguered family farmers.

A recent Associated Press news article reported that, in the wake of a 2007 United States Supreme Court ruling that livestock gaseous emissions may contribute to global climate change and thus constitute a form of airborne pollution, the EPA is exploring the possibility of assessing a tax on certain farmers and ranchers.

The proposal, still in its preliminary stages, would impose a tax on farms or ranches having over 200 hogs, 50 cattle or 25 dairy cows. It would require them to pay a yearly charge of approximately $20 for each hog, $87.50 per head of cattle and $175 per dairy cow. The tax is applicable to farms whose livestock operations produce over 100 tons of carbon emissions annually and are subject to the Clean Air Act.

At the same time our state endures an economic recession, the EPA thinks it’s wise to impose a new tax on family farms and agri-businesses? If ever there was need for a crystal clear example of a federal agency completely out-of-touch with reality, the EPA just filled that bill.

This proposal from the EPA would only add to the financial challenges facing family farmers and New York’s agri-businesses. Why the EPA would seek to impose new taxes – while Upstate farmers are struggling in one of the worst economies in recent years – is simply beyond me. New York’s Congressional delegation should ensure this ludicrous plan goes nowhere fast.