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Borrello says Albany is out of step with concerns of most New Yorkers

By Press Release
George Borrello
File Photo

Press Release:

“Another session has concluded and with it, the hope that this would be the year when those in power would finally tackle the problems New Yorkers care about most.

If my Democratic colleagues read the same public surveys that I do, then they’ve seen that approximately 60 percent of New Yorkers believe the state is on the wrong track and that their top concerns are the cost of living in New York State, the migrant influx and crime. However, judging by the bills and priorities they pushed again this year, it is clear that Albany Democrats aren’t letting New Yorkers’ top concerns influence their agenda.

Here is a yardstick of their ‘progress’:

  • Due to New York’s sanctuary policies, over 200,000 migrants have flooded into the state in the past two years, creating enormous logistical strains, a $4.3 billion burden on taxpayers, and increased pressure on city services. One city official this week reported that they have more migrants in their DHS system than New Yorkers. My Republican colleagues and I have urged state leaders to rescind sanctuary policies to stop the influx. We’ve also pushed for Laken’s Law to allow law enforcement to cooperate with ICE on migrants who’ve committed crimes. The response to both proposals has been silence and inaction.
  • Five years into their failed experiment, the toll of Democrats’ disastrous bail reform and other criminal justice changes continues to mount. In just a six-week period earlier this year, four police officers were killed and two others gravely wounded by suspects they apprehended. The National Guard was called in to patrol the dangerous subways, and NYC assault rates are at record levels. Robberies, shoplifting, and DWI offenses have surged to decades-high levels. The governor’s tough talk on retail theft amounted to a meager measure to create a low-level penalty for assaulting a retail worker. Numerous Republican proposals to reverse bail reform, combat antisemitism, and increase penalties for shoplifting, gun crimes, and DWI were ignored.
  • Unaffordability and our highest-in-the-nation taxes continue to make New York State the number one state for outmigration. The fuel for higher taxes is excessive spending and that trend continued. The $237 billion state budget spends $8 billion more than last year, is twice the size of Florida’s budget and represents the second highest per capita spending plan in the nation. While Texas and Florida post double-digit budget surpluses and tax cuts through prudent spending and strong economic growth, New York State’s debt continues to rise, and its productive, taxpaying residents and businesses continue to leave.
  • Efforts to meet the reckless goals of the state’s Climate Agenda are driving us toward less reliable and more expensive energy sources. Thanks to our vocal opposition, the HEAT ACT was removed from consideration this year, preserving our natural gas access, keeping energy costs down and saving jobs. However, the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Act is another extreme mandate that would impose costly and unworkable burdens on manufacturers without making any measurable impact on the environment. The mandated packaging reduction will result in manufacturers pulling their popular products out of stores in New York, leaving consumers without the option to purchase many of their favorite brands and grocery store staples. Other manufacturers will be forced to pass their added costs onto already inflation-strapped consumers. Either way, consumers lose, a fact that has become the defining feature of all of the left’s climate proposals. The truth is that banning things like cool whip containers won’t save the planet, it will only appease the radical left. BUT, it hasn’t yet passed the Assembly, so I urge them to protect New Yorkers from this terrible bill and let it die. 

Ultimately, the session concluded without the legislature’s majorities taking any steps towards addressing New York’s most serious problems and making it a place where people want to live rather than leave. Democrats will have to answer for that when they return home.

They will have to explain to their constituents why crime in the streets and subways isn’t improving and why their pharmacies are still locking up toothpaste and soap but allowing criminals to remain free.

They will have to explain why their tax bill and energy costs are three or four times higher than those of their friends and family members who live in other states.

They will have to answer for why our state continues to invite those who have violated our nation’s immigration laws to come to New York to access taxpayer-provided housing, food, healthcare, education, and legal services and why we shield them from federal authorities, even when they have committed crimes.

I remain hopeful that the concerns and common sense of my Democratic colleagues’ constituents will finally prevail over the demands of the progressive activists who have run Albany’s agenda for the past six years. In the meantime, my advocacy for the hardworking, law-abiding people in our region will continue.”

Hawley: 'Silver stays on the taxpayer dime, from suit to jumpsuit'

By Billie Owens

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) issues statement on the sentencing of Sheldon Silver:

“I am glad to finally see Sheldon Silver meet the fate he deserves. I am extremely dismayed to hear that he will be receiving a near six figure taxpayer-funded pension behind bars. No one who purposely betrays the public for decades and denigrates his/her office like Silver should receive any form of taxpayer-funded pension. The Assembly Majority promised us comprehensive ethics reform months ago. Since then they have ignored the desires of New Yorkers in exchange for protecting one of their own. Corruption in Albany should not be business as usual and I will continue to beat the drum for a return to integrity here in the Capitol.”

Sponsored Post: Can we jump to dental implants?

By Lisa Ace

Tooth loss leads to additional consequences which may only hurt one's health. Traditionally we have replaced teeth with removable dentures or possibly with fixed dentures which are cemented to adjacent teeth. When possible, there is now an even better alternative, dental implants.
Your typical dental implant is basically an artificial root made out of titanium and placed into the bone. That's it. On top of these artificial roots or implants we attach teeth. Most commonly we see one tooth replaced by one implant and the tooth or crown attached to it. Three teeth can easily be replaced with two implants and often we replace one's whole upper or lower teeth on top of as few as four or five implants. One can use just two implants and give a lower removable denture unbelievable stability and retention.
Patients worry about the discomfort involved with implant placement. The truth is that there is really no discomfort during placement and rarely any reported discomfort afterwards. Your dentist might suggest "mini implants" which are even easier to place. They are classified as "mini" only because they are smaller, but often "mini implants" work better for a particular patient especially when simply anchoring a denture.
Costs of implants have come down and even compare with traditional tooth replacement options. Most dentists offer implant treatment whether they place the implants themselves or refer to specialists for implant placement or they may do both as we do in our office. If you are missing a tooth or you'd like to replace a denture that you do not like or may not even wear, talk to your dentist. Dental implants can be a magical way to stay healthy!
Dr. Russell Marchese Jr. -- 585-343-2711. Like us on Facebook for more information.

Reader submitted editorial: Welcome to the State of The City of New York

By Kyle Slocum

A fact has become clear to me: The State of New York no longer exists. What we have today is a polity that is, in effect, the City of New York and its possessions.

The passage of the “SAFE” Act is a clear message to the residents of the possessions of the City of New York that our interests and lifestyle are no longer relevant to the politicians of the State of New York. The passage of this bill is the legislative equivalent of rape. It was passed suddenly and without our consent. Our interests and concerns, as well as our rights, were secondary to the whims and desires of the City of New York.

I am sure that there are state-level politicians who are absolutely befuddled by the fact that they are required to vote on farm issues since they have never seen a farm in the Bronx. I would not be surprised if the legislature of the State of the City of New York voted for a car tax that required New Yorkers to pay 100% of the value of their automobile each year since, in reality, a car is a luxury. You can always take the subway or a bus to wherever your going, after all. The cultural gap between the City and the State of New York is as vast as the gap between Washington, D.C., and America.

In a perfect world, the residents of the State of New York would have the right, and ability, to divorce themselves from the political overreaching of the City of New York. In the real world, we are stuck with its mandates and its world-view. I have had a recurring dream: I stand at the Rockland County line with a huge saw. I cut, and I cut. Eventually, NYC and Long Island are cut free and I push them out to sea. I wish them good luck in their journeys, but I do not miss them.

Back in the land of the awake, we have to deal with the costs of this NYC control to the people of the possessions of the City of New York. Unfunded mandates, regulations and laws, passed to solve NYC and NYC suburban county problems, but having statewide effect and statewide costs, have built upon and compounded on themselves. These costs are bringing our local governments to the brink of bankruptcy. The State Senate is controlled now by the politicians of the City of New York, regardless of the fig leaf of a few Democrats caucusing with the Republicans to form a “Republican” majority. The situation will continue to worsen and the costs to rise.

I can dream of the counties of Western New York declaring their separation and forming their own polity to free themselves from the tyranny of the City of New York, but this will not happen. It would create a new entity that would potentially result in a new state that would bring with it two new U.S. Senators who would inevitably be Republican. The City of New York would never stomach that, let alone the party of which it is a wholly owned subsidiary.

Alternatively, perhaps the border counties, and their neighbors, could petition Pennsylvania for admission to the Commonwealth. That will not be allowed for very much the same reason. It would tip the balance of power in Pennsylvania in favor of the Republicans. That would never be allowed.

What I suspect will continue to happen, though, is that former citizens of what was, once, the Empire State will continue to make their homes in Free States in the South and West of the United States of America in increasing numbers as the oppression of the City of New York continues. With lower taxes, and better employment prospects than are available in the possessions of the City of New York, it is a no-brainer to flee. Good luck paying your ever-increasing bills with an ever-increasing out-migration of taxpayers, State of the City of New York.

Same old, same old.taxes,

By Bob Harker

ALBANY — The state’s top court threw out a lawsuit today that would have upended the way New York funds economic development projects. In a 5-to-2 ruling issued this morning, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed the state’s right to transfer funds to “public-benefit corporations,” which then take the money and offer it to private businesses in the form of grants and tax incentives. The state’s main economic-development branch is the Empire State Development Corp., which is technically independent of the government and therefore isn’t bound by a constitutional ban on giving state money to private entities, the court found. Although some “may question the wisdom of policy choices,” the court found “no constitutional infirmity to the challenged appropriations,” according to the majority opinion. A Niagara County businessman and 49 other generally conservative taxpayers originally filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in 2009. The group alleged that grants doled out by the Empire State Development Corp. and other public-benefit corporations violated Article VII of the New York state Constitution, which prohibits state money from being “given or loaned to or in aid of any private corporation or association.” A state Supreme Court judge had ruled to dismiss the lawsuit, but the Appellate Division reversed the ruling last year. Today’s ruling upheld the Supreme Court judge’s original decision.

County legislature protests tax cap without mandate relief

By Howard B. Owens

Without mandate relief, local officials say, a proposed property tax cap will strangle county government.

The cap proposal is moving through Albany and today the Genesee County Legislature sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local representatives.

Without addressing the root cause of the problem -- unfunded mandates -- counties will have to begin eliminating all non-mandated, community-based programs and services to stay under the cap. These programs include veterans services and aging programs, local road and bridge maintenance and repair, road patrol, long-term care and substance abuse services, to name a few.

Legislative Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock told WBTA today that rising pension costs and Medicaid expenses that are "forced" on the county are eating up too much local revenue.

"Pension costs have gone up 31 percent," she said. "And in the past several years, Medicaid has continued to escalate in cost."

WBTA also spoke with  Batavia City Schools' Business Manager Scott Rozanski, who predicted dark days ahead under the cap.

"In essence, it means we could only increase our expenditures by about $350,000," he said. "Cutting more is doable, but it would probably create a lot more uproar." 

Superintendent Margaret Puzio blamed the current proposed increase in the tax levy on Albany.

"The only reason we're looking at an increase in the tax levy is because our state aid was cut," she said.

While in Batavia today, Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer addressed the issue. Ranzenhofer expressed support for Hancock's call to have the state assume the costs of Medicaid.

"I was a county legislator for 20 years -- I understand that issue," he said. "I'm also very concerned about overuse of the Medicaid system by some, to the detriment of others. I'm talking about not having every possible optional service that you can have.

If the state took over funding Medicaid, Razenhofer, it might take more seriously such as issues of fraud and waste and find ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Rural Perspective on Complete Streets Legislation

By Timothy Hens

On a recent drive from Batavia to Geneseo I found myself, like several other vehicles, stuck behind a very slow moving piece of agricultural equipment that was taking up the entire lane and the paved shoulder. Although it was a bright sunny day in February, there were whiteout conditions from the snow blowing off the tops of the built-up banks along the shoulder of the road. It was challenging driving and being a County Highway Superintendent, I couldn’t stop thinking about the new “Complete Streets” legislation being considered by our State Legislature in Albany.

 A complete street is when all users, such as bicycles, pedestrians and wheelchairs, are considered in the design and construction of a roadway.  Common complete street initiatives include sidewalks, crosswalk enhancements, bicycle lanes, speed humps and other traffic calming measures. The idea of complete streets is an offshoot of the Livable Communities movement which is the latest urban planning fad. It is a noble initiative aimed at making our communities an easier place to live by making jobs, shopping, dining and medical needs all footsteps away. A sample outcome would be to have a senior housing complex less than a block from both a grocery store and the doctor’s office with sidewalks and paths in between and options for alternate means of transportation. 
On this fine February day, I just couldn't see how a complete street would accomodate a pedestrian or a bicyclist between the snow bank and the 18 foot wide Grouser travelling ahead of me.
The “Complete Streets” bill proposed by Albany would mandate that state and local governments study and consider making enhancements to roadways when building, re-building or rehabilitating streets with federal or state aid. The current legislation is backed and being pushed by AARP and several other groups as the demographic that benefits the most from these enhancements would be senior citizens. More senior pedestrians are killed by vehicles than any other age group. For this reason alone, it makes absolute sense to improve the safety of our roadways for all users. The bill, however, fails to differentiate between urban streets and rural roads. This lack of differentiation is one of many reasons why the New York State Association of Counties recently passed a resolution against the bill. 
A complete street might make perfect sense in Queens, but it has no place on a rural county or town road. Many of these roads are narrow with limited shoulders and often deep drainage ditches. They are used by farm equipment and often are covered in mud or manure. Widening one of these roads to accommodate even a bike lane would be a significant undertaking. The relocation of ditches triggers la engthy environmental review and possible involves the taking of additional right-of-way which is another lengthy and often controversial process. Often times, rural roads are “roads by use”, which means the landowners actually own the property to the centerline of the road and there is no established right-of-way. In this case, the municipality has no jurisdiction outside of the bounds of the roadway. Just imagine the disputes that would arise over trying to negotiate right-of-way with 40 or 50 separate land owners.
While, the proposed bill provides exceptions to complete street improvements based on lack of need and burdensome cost, the need for a study or evaluation is still required. The study process will add delays and costs to road projects that are already significantly under funded. In urban areas, most municipalities have their own well staffed engineering departments that could perform the studies. In rural counties and towns, often times there is no engineering function at all. In most cases, rural areas would need to hire an outside consultant to formally determine that there is no room for pedestrians or bicycles when a large piece of farm equipment travels a narrow rural road.  Do we need consultants to tell us that there are limited pedestriansa long a back country road with no houses?  These common sense decisions shouldn’t require an expensive study.
Most local governments already have a hard time keeping up with basic road maintenance. State highway funding has been relatively flat over the last 20 years while the price of oil and maintenance materials has skyrocketed. The burden of unfunded social service mandates has limited the capacity of local government to fund their own highway maintenance. This bill further misdirects funding and makes it harder to get the job done.
Where it makes sense, local governments already implement safety improvements that consider the needs of other users.  In the last 5 years, Genesee County has widened several roads to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian traffic along higher volume roads and in hamlet areas.  Several new road signs have also been added to aid disabled citizens.  All of these improvements have been made without state oversight and have been performed in a way that allows a balancing of the public interest at the local level.
The best course of action for our elected officials in Albany is to reject this bill and allow our local governments to decide what is best for their citizens. To add a bill that further detracts from highway funding and creates another mandate is counterproductive.

Hawley buys NY flags for Assembly colleagues

By Billie Owens

This information is from a news release from Steve Hawley.

On July 1, Assemblyman Steve Hawley closed out the 2010-2011 Legislative Session by giving New York State flags to his colleagues in the Assembly.

Earlier in the week, Elba Town Supervisor Lucine Kauffman, and her husband Bill, took a tour of the State Capitol arranged by Assemblyman Hawley.

Upon reaching the Assembly Chamber, Supervisor Kaufmann and Bill were surprised to find that in addition to the American flag, many of the members' desks included flags of other countries and social causes, but there was not one New York State flag.

With that in mind, Assemblyman Hawley purchased New York State flags for each of his Assembly Minority colleagues, and several of his colleagues in the Majority, to go with their American flags.

They serve as a reminder that although this year was a banner year for dysfunction and fiscal mismanagement in Albany, the legislature should still show pride in our home - New York State!

Hawley weighs in on 'the good, the bad and the ugly' aspects of budget extentions

By Billie Owens

Assemblyman Steve Hawley issued the following news release today after Albany passed its 11th "budget extender."

“After two and half months, and 11 emergency budget extenders, New Yorkers are still without a state budget. In that time, we’ve seen our schools, local governments, contractors, state parks, and small businesses left in jeopardy as their fates have been left in the hands of weekly budget extenders.

"Although the ‘good’ that has come out of these extenders includes the reopening of state parks, some contractual obligations being met, school districts receiving their state aid, and other essential state services remaining open, the ‘good’ has without a doubt come with plenty of ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ costs.

“The bad consists of the simple fact that since April 1, the more than $9 billion budget gap has hardly been addressed. Instead, the most recent extenders have raised fees by nearly $4 million, raided $80 million from the Environmental Protection Fund, and introduced ‘savings,' rather than make the real cuts that are needed.

Additionally, this process does not allow schools, local governments, and businesses with state contracts to formulate their own budgets. Even uglier, because of the lack of a transparent budget process, the ‘three men in a room’ may close these budget shortfalls with more taxes, more state borrowing, and even more of the special-interest-driven backroom deals that put our state in this fiscal crisis to begin with.

“These budget extenders are simply laying the framework for another over-bloated state budget to be passed through a piecemeal process. I again voted against the budget extenders and ask that my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate majorities open up the budget process, allow needed input from rank-and-file members, and see to it that it is passed immediately.”

Hawley votes against so-called deficit reduction plan

By Howard B. Owens

Batavia's representative in Albany issued a statement this morning critical of a legislative plan to reduce spending because, he said, it hits Western New York harder than wasteful downstate interests.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley said he voted against the plan.

"Yes, tough choices need to be made, but once again the downstate leaders have attempted to balance their inflated spending on the backs of Western New Yorkers," Hawley said in a statement. "Just as I voted against the excessive 2009-10 State Budget, I also voted against this "reduction" plan that does nothing but further shift the burden of Albany's irresponsible spending onto the backs of hardworking Western New Yorkers."

(UPDATE: The Batavian's news partner, WBTA, spoke with Steve Hawley this morning. Listen (mp3).)

The Buffalo News reports that the deficit reduction plan leaves New York still in the hole about $1 billion. The News characterized the cuts as "politically painless."

"Putting off the pain" is how the Albany Times-Union described the so-called deficit reduction plan.

After railing against Gov. David Paterson's deficit reduction plan for more than a month and a half, legislative leaders essentially endorsed half of his proposed measures. However, they spared themselves the political risk of cutting aid to schools that the governor says most districts -- sitting on plenty of reserves -- could have afforded. Instead of going along with an admittedly tough, unpopular move that the governor could still make, lawmakers opted to use $391 million in federal stimulus money that the state was holding for next year.

In an editorial, the Buffalo News also raps the legislature for its inaction, and includes this gem:

Rare is the politician who seeks office based on the promise that he will spend less on your children’s school and your grandmother’s hospital. But New York spends so much more than any other state on both functions without making our offspring smarter or our elders healthier. Like other states, our schools and health care institutions will simply have to make do with less money.

The New York Times editorial says the blame for the state's spending problems rests primarily with the Senate.

The State Senate, on the other hand, has done little more than issue press releases. Senators are too busy eyeing next year’s elections, especially those lawmakers with the least political security — that is, a few suburban Democrats in dicey districts and all 30 of the Republicans, who want to regain the majority next year.

They don’t want to do anything unpleasant or really difficult like pare state expenses in midyear — in other words do their jobs — even if it means facing an even larger deficit in April, perhaps as high as $10 billion.

Hawley's full statement following he jump:

After months of knowing that this year's revenues would force budget cuts and after weeks of returning to Albany with no agreement on the table, I was pleased that both houses were able to come together to agree on some of the necessary cuts.  However, by taking next year's federal education funds, cutting aid to municipalities (including to the City of Batavia) and reducing access to health care in rural communities, like those in Western New York, this plan is full of problems.

Yes, tough choices need to be made, but once again the downstate leaders have attempted to balance their inflated spending on the backs of Western New Yorkers.  Just as I voted against the excessive 2009-10 State Budget, I also voted against this "reduction" plan that does nothing but further shift the burden of Albany's irresponsible spending onto the backs of hardworking Western New Yorkers.

Instead of adopting the many proposals to reduce the deficit that I proposed along with our Conference, downstate leaders decided to turn their backs on implementing real solutions.  Under the cover of darkness, with smoke and mirrors, after four weeks at a cost of $322,000, downstate leaders adopted the old adage of "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul."  Only they robbed next year's federal money from Obama to pay Shelley, Dave and John.

On top of these hurtful cuts, this plan also includes cuts to community colleges and Roswell Park as well as cuts $10 million from Timothy's Law, causing more increased costs again for small businesses.  Additionally, this plan cuts fees for out-of-state CPAs but does nothing for those instate.  They did the same thing to insurance small businesses last year, sending a consistent message that Albany does not care about New York State small business and further weakening our state's economy.

This plan cuts too little and doesn't address the nearly $4 billion deficit we have this year.  What's worse is cutting $391 million from education and replacing that with next year's federal stimulus, further exasperating the problem. Coupled with these other dangerous cuts, this plan is a deficit deferral not a reduction and it sets up our state for a deeper deficit next year, which is already estimated to mount $10 billion.

Farm Bureau visits Albany to oppose bill that would increase costs

By Howard B. Owens

Farm Bureau President Dean Norton tells the Watertown Daily Times that a bill that would raise farm worker wages isn't necessary and will do more harm than good, for farmers and workers.

"If passed, this bill would put our industry into a major tailspin and wreck the already struggling upstate and Long Island economy," said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau and a Batavia dairy farmer.

Mr. Norton spoke at a press conference in Albany on Monday afternoon.

"The tragic irony of the situation is that the sponsors are primarily from New York City or urban areas, and most of them have never been on a farm," Mr. Norton said. "If the bill's sponsors spent some time understanding the issue, talking to farmers and farm workers, they would know that the bill doesn't actually benefit the worker."

The bill is scheduled for an Assembly floor vote this week and could increase farm costs by $200 million per year.

Sen. Catharine M. Young is critical of the legislative leadership for letting the bill get this far, because if it goes to a floor vote, there may be hard-to-resist pressure on many members to support it.

Sen. Catharine M. Young, R-Olean, said, "The only way to stop it is for it never to come to the floor for a vote."

She is the ranking minority member on the Agriculture Committee. She called the Times and criticized Sen. Aubertine for not quashing the bill in committee by talking to Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith. Mr. Aubertine, however, is not on the committee that will send the bill to the floor.

She said union special interests are driving the bill.

"If it is allowed to come to the floor, people are going to have to be held accountable," she said. "There's a chance it will pass and it will be devastating for the upstate economy."

The Farm Bureau argues that the bill, besides being burdensome, is unnecessary:

Among other provisions, the omnibus bill would also allow farm workers to unionize, mandate one day off per week for farm workers, call on farms to provide unemployment insurance, workers compensation and disability insurance for injuries off the job.

According to the Farm Bureau, farm workers already have stronger protections in the state than under federal law. Medium- and large-sized farms already provide unemployment insurance. All farms follow a state sanitary code for migrant and seasonal housing that is stricter than the federal code.

Farms provide free housing, transportation and utilities for their workers. New York is one of two states with a housing program for farm workers. Farm employees also have work agreements for the type of work, wages, work hours, pay period, benefits and vacation and other arrangements.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley opposes the bill and posted a column alerting the public to the pending legislation last week.

Pictured above are Hawley and members of the Farm Bureau. The picture was submitted this morning by Hawley's office.

UPDATE: Additional coverage from the D&C, which quotes a proponent of the bill:

"We deserve to have a day of rest, to be paid overtime and to join a union if we choose — just like anyone else," farm worker Salvador Solis said in a news release from the Justice for Farmworkers group, which is pushing the bill.

Proposed state budget will suck $10 billion out of the economy

By Howard B. Owens

We keep hearing about how New York is in crisis.

So I find this morning's Buffalo News headline a little shocking: Both spending and taxes soar in state budget.

When you or I find our income greatly reduced, our primary option is to massively cut our own spending. We can only raise more revenue if we can sell our services on the open market for a higher fee. We don't have the option of extorting more money from people, unless we want to risk jail time.

The government, especially New York's government, doesn't work that way.  When it find itself facing revenue shortfalls, not only can it force its citizens to pony up more taxes and fees, it can go right ahead and increase spending as well.

Where on the measure of common sense does this fall?

The lead of the News story, with its list of new taxes and fees, along with the total amount raised, is stagger:

The state’s new, inflation-busting budget will require New Yorkers to pay more to go fishing and hunting, drive a car or motorcycle, have life insurance, operate the lights and heat in their homes, buy cigarettes, own a cell phone and drink beer, wine and bottled water.

Single taxpayers making more than $200,000 a year will see a jump in taxes, as will bus companies, nuclear plants, food processing companies, racehorse owners, farmers, pesticide applicators, grocery stores and anyone wanting to open a hospice.

In all, the total number of new taxes, fees and various assessments and surcharges will top $7 billion in the new budget that state lawmakers will vote on beginning Tuesday. The governor’s office put the number at $5.3 billion, but that misses a number of levies.

That's $7 billion that will be sucked out of state's economy. That's $7 billions in lost jobs, lost opportunity and lost economic growth.

The News also reports that items such as the end of the STAR rebate program, will cost taxpayers a total of $10 billion when all is said and done.

That's $10,000,000,000.

Meanwhile, spending is skyrocketing to an astonishing $131.8 billion.

With a $17.7 billion deficit to wrestle—up from $16.2 billion just a week ago — Paterson and lawmakers turned to every possible revenue source to go along with $6.5 billion of assorted cuts to hospitals, nursing homes and other programs. Rounding out the money to fill the gap is $6.2 billion in federal stimulus aid.

It's not enough to just close the budget gap, Gov. Paterson and the legislative leadership just can't wait to spend more money.  As the D&C reports, the new budget increases spending by 9 percent, or about $10 billion. Again, in tough times, you and I must cut spending, but not the government -- it just raises taxes and fees and takes more money out of your pocket.

And what's with using $6 billion in federal stimulus money to balance this bloated budget? That money should go to things that, you know, supposedly, allegedly will stimulate the economy, such as new infrastructure projects. Or helping small businesses. Not to increasing the size and scope of government.

Fiscal mismanagement like this should be an impeachable offense. Albany is out of control.

City leaders looking to make deals at mayor's conference in Albany

By Philip Anselmo

Several city leaders are in Albany today, where Council President Charlie Mallow hopes to swing a couple deals for future grants. In an e-mail to local media outlets, Mallow said that he and Councilwoman Marianne Clattenburg "were able to secure private meetings with some very influential people and there are several issues the city is looking to move forward on." As a result, Mallow requested City Manager Jason Molino and Assistant City Manager Sally Kuzon, to join them in the capital for help with "this very important lobbying effort." mallow and Clattenburg have been there since last week.

Tonight's council meeting has subsequently been cancelled.

We sent an e-mail to Mallow this morning to see if he could supply us with any more details about these "private meetings." We also asked why he felt the presence of Molino and Kuzon was required.

His response:

Being successful and keeping the tax rate down requires us to obtain grants.This year city taxpayers were subsidized $580,000 by state grants. in prior years we were only able to secure a small fraction of that money. That is a number that was unthinkable in past years and it comes from a lot of hard work and a professional staff. We have made a conscious effort to go out and get what our city needs instead of relying on that money to come from local taxpayers pockets.

I was able to setup several meetings with key individuals in the governor’s office. I asked Jason how we could use this time and these contacts to our best advantage. Sally and Jason's knowledge on the specifics of our requests are needed on an informational basis to those we are meeting with. The more successful we are in making our case for funding the higher the probability we will be successful with future grant opportunities, that is our ultimate goal and the reason we are here in Albany.

Can we ever fix Albany?

By Philip Anselmo

Buffalo News columnist Rod Watson doesn't hold back in his indictment of our state legislature in today's edition of the paper. He goes for the jugular in this piece, comparing the cast of characters in Albany to the fabled mafia crew of television's Sopranos.

Consider what passes for governance here:

Legalized bribery and extortion, which is what the campaign system amounts to. Buying loyalty with high-priced, do-nothing committee assignments. Running a front-operation that meets in the legislative chamber while all of the decisions are made in the back room.


But even when the needed reforms — campaign finance limits, independent redistricting, etc. — are apparent, how do you change a system when the ones who write the laws are the ones who benefit most from it?

Of course, the answer, as always, is us. It's all about us paying attention and demanding change. Watson calls for a C-SPAN of the state legislature. If they're being watched all the time, maybe they will start to behave. Or that's the idea.

What do you think? Are we capable of paying attention en masse, because that's what it would take, it seems? A few gadflies here and there will only get swatted down. Or are we too complacent, too ready to buy into the aggressive campaigning of specialty groups who spur an uproar every time their funding is threatened? Or too complacent, too willing to chew on the fodder of smallish political victories passed off as significant achievements—think of Chris Lee recently championing how he saved local libraries from the big bad government? Or should we even be blaming ourselves?

While you brood over that, I would recommend checking out Watson's article.

Genesee County ranks 8th highest in the nation in property tax study

By Philip Anselmo

One of our readers recently pointed us to a study by the Tax Foundation that lists 1,817 counties across the U.S. according to the amount of property tax as a percentage of home value. Genesee County ranks 8th. In other words, 1,811 other counties in this nation pay less of a percentage of teir home value in property taxes.

Now, we've always known that we the people of western New York get shafted as far as taxes go. But it's another thing to see it quantified so starkly. Not only is Genesee County the eighth most taxed county in the country. Counties in New York make up 19 of the top 20 in the list!

Now, folks here may rank only 193rd on that list as far as amount of taxes paid (a median $2,565), but with a median home value of $95,500, that means the taxes paid total up about 2.7 percent of the home value. Wayne County is the same. Orleans County is first on the list with 3 percent. So on and so forth for our region. Just take a look.

We asked our state representatives, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, and newly-elected Senator Mike Ranzehofer, to weigh in on this. Hawley's office got back to us last week by issuing a press release on the topic. We'll include that release, entitled: "Hawley to Legislature: Stop Property Tax Rise Now," here in full.

First, however, let's here from Ranzenhofer, who spoke with us by phone today. Ranzenhofer agreed that the result of the study was not all that much of a surprise.

"Those of us who live here, work here, are well ware of the crushing taxes across the board," he said. "The only thing that's going to revitalize the area is not the suggestion of the governor to increase taxes on everything. We need to cut taxes and cut spending to encourage job growth."

We asked Ranzenhofer what he could do in the Senate to help relieve the tax burden here in Genesee County.

"One thing is my action on the state budget," he said. "It's a little disappointing that there hasn't been more done in Albany to deal with the budget and the budget deficit. We need to very strongly oppose increases in taxes, and even take it one step further and really need (to institute) across-the-board reduction in taxes. That doesn't mean shifting the burden to counties, families and business. It means streamlining every agency and department in state government."

Ranzenhofer spoke of instituting a tax cap and really following through on the threat of a hiring freeze at the state level. "We need to create a new tiered pension system," he added. "These are all things I've talked about. I hope to introduce legislation along those lines this year."

We'll keep an eye on you, Mike.

From the office of Steve Hawley:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C - Batavia) highlighted the recent Tax Foundation report, which announced that Orleans, Niagara, Monroe and Genesee counties all top the nation in highest property taxes as a percentage of median home value, when calling upon the State Legislature to immediately address property tax-saving measures.  The top measure hurting property taxpayers, according to Hawley, is the estimated $6 billion in unfunded mandates pushed onto local governments and, consequently, homeowners.

"Unfortunately, all we are seeing from our state's leaders right now is inaction when it comes to solving this crisis.  As always, Albany is continuing to shift the burden, and shift the blame, for property taxpayers' ever-rising tax burden.  In fact, this proposed state budget will shift nearly $4,000 per individual taxpayer.  For our state's economy to recover, Albany needs to begin taking responsibility for its spending.  We cannot afford this year's record-breaking budget proposal and we certainly cannot afford $4,000 in subsequent tax hikes," said Hawley.

According to the Assemblyman, the solution is multi-fold, which is why he has been a vocal advocate for increasing the economic viability of Western New York in order to help lower property tax costs.  The more businesses paying property taxes, the less these taxes will be burdening homeowners. However, Hawley states, "We must do more to attract business to coming to New York and we must strengthen our commitment to keeping businesses here. We cannot expect businesses to bear the brunt of the property tax burden and still offer quality jobs.  But it is vital to our long-term property tax-relieving solution that we address business growth."

Last year, as the nation was on the brink of an economic recession, Hawley was among tax reformers who asked, "Isn't it about time New York State make some tough budget choices as well?"  The federal government stepped in with their federal stimulus checks and buy-out capital for corporations, but it was still clear that states would need to rein in spending and consider stimulus plans of their own.  However, despite this, the New York State Legislature passed the most expensive budget in state history.

This year's Executive Budget proposal breaks the spending record again, paid for by 137 new and increased taxes.  His budget proposal also eliminates the property tax rebate check and decreases STAR exemptions across the board. At the same time, this budget does not address Medicaid fraud and, moreover, by cutting education aid, it will pass along an inevitable burden to local governments.  Not only will this plan cause local property taxes to rise, but it could also cost the state over half a million jobs.  According to former state chief economist Stephen Kagann, every $100 million in new taxes imposed during a recession leads to a loss of 11,400 private sector jobs. With these tax hikes totally $6 billion, this means the approximate loss of 600,000 jobs.

To balance the State Budget and reduce the state's debt, Hawley has long called for cost saving measures, such as agency and department consolidation, such as merging the Office of Real Property Services into the Department of Taxation and Finance, saving New York State taxpayers $18 million annually.  Another $37 million would be saved by merging the Office of Climate Change into the Office of Atmospheric Research at the State University of Albany.

Hawley also has been on the forefront of tackling government waste by calling for state operating cost cuts and continues to propose cost-saving measures such as limiting the amount of vehicles purchased on taxpayer dollars by 50 percent (not including public safety vehicles such as police, fire and emergency services vehicles) to save another estimated $4 million and $25 million, respectively.  Assemblyman Hawley stated, "The bulk of the cost savings would come from finally targeting Medicaid fraud, abuse and waste.  I have long supported a complete state take-over of Medicaid. Not only would this help ensure the program is run more efficiently, but it would eliminate a multi-billion unfunded mandate currently put on our local governments and taxpayers.  Perhaps, most importantly, by forcing the state to take responsibility for the Medicaid program, it will also help make Albany more accountable and cognizant for its spending overall."

The Tax Foundation used information compiled by the United States Census Bureau from 2005 to 2007 in their report which shows that out of all counties in the nation (with 20,000 or more residents) Orleans County residents pay the highest property taxes as a percentage of their home worth at 3.05 percent.  Niagara County came in second at 2.90 percent, followed by Monroe County ranking fifth and Genesee County ranking eighth at 2.84 and 2.69 percent, respectively.  Every county topping the nation's most highly taxed counties came from New York State (rankings 1-20), with the exception of Fort Bend County in Texas, ranking in eleventh place.  The majority of New York State counties on the list came from Western New York, strengthening Hawley's assertion that economic stimulus and a drastic reduction in spending are vital to lowering property taxes.

Negotiations over cigarette tax will precede any action by the state

By Philip Anselmo

The Buffalo News reports this morning that Gov. David Paterson will meet and negotiate with the leaders of the Seneca Nation before any shipments of cigarettes to Seneca retailers are halted. Aaron Besecker reports:

During a rally Sunday just south of the Route 438 Thruway overpass, [Seneca President Barry E. Snyder Sr.] read a letter from Gov. David A. Paterson in which the governor indicated his desire to begin talks with the Indian nation about the dispute over tax collection on cigarettes sold by Native American merchants to non-Indians.

It sounds as if the governor is considering backing off from enforcing the law that he himself signed in December that requires wholesalers to show to the state tax department that they are not selling tax-free cigarettes to retailers. If they fail to comply, they could be charged with perjury. In the meantime, a justice of the state Supreme Court "issued a temporary restraining order ... that blocks the state from enforcing its policy."

Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook said he would not comment on a private conversation between the governor and Snyder, but he did say a negotiated compromise on the cigarette tax issue “is an avenue [Paterson] would like to take.”

“The governor sees it as a window of opportunity,” Hook said.

What exactly would Gov. Paterson negotiate? This seems to be a pretty cut and dry issue. Either the state enforces the law or the law is repealed. Can you see any compromise on this?

Ranzenhofer will represent agriculture in the state Senate

By Philip Anselmo

Our newest state Senator, Mike Ranzenhofer, has taken positions on several state committees, including agriculture and aging.

Ranzenhofer beat out Democratic challenger Joe Mesi to win the seat last Novemeber. When The Batavian spoke with Ranzenhofer prior to that election, he told us a little bit about his plan to seek an across-the-board 15 percent cut to help reign in the state budget. We hope to hear more about Ranzenhofer's efforts in Albany. We'll be sure to keep you filled in.

From the release statement:

State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst) has become the Ranking Member of the State Senate Committee on Aging.  He will also serve on the Agriculture, Banks, Corporations, Judiciary and Tourism Committees.

Senator Ranzenhofer is excited to start work on behalf of his constituents.  "These committee assignments will allow me to be an effective voice on the issues that matter most to the residents of the 61st Senate District and to fight for the resources that are necessary for our industries to grow and our communities to prosper," said Senator Ranzenhofer.

He plans to be a strong voice on issues important to the farming community as a member of the Agriculture Committee.  "Agriculture represents a major economic engine in the 61st District, especially in Genesee County.  I am looking forward to protecting and promoting agribusiness and tourism in our communities," said Senator Ranzenhofer.

As the Ranking Member on the Aging Committee, Senator Ranzenhofer is particularly interested in working with his Senate colleagues on issues related to the elderly.  "During this legislative session, we are going to have to address budget cuts proposed by the Governor that would directly impact senior homeowners.  I strongly believe that we must do all that we can to keep the STAR property tax relief program.  This program allows seniors to stay in their homes.  We must protect seniors from budget cuts that threaten basic health services and should work to cut the Albany bureaucracy," said Senator Ranzenhofer.

Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos said: "As the number of older Americans increases, so does the responsibility of government to ensure that their needs are met.  I appointed Senator Mike Ranzenhofer to a leadership role on the Senate Aging Committee because he understands the challenges seniors face, especially in Western New York.  I am confident he will do an outstanding job ensuring that state government provides the help senior citizens need for a strong quality of life."

Senator Ranzenhofer was elected to the New York State Senate in 2008.  The 61st District includes part of the city of Tonawanda, the Towns of Amherst, Clarence, Newstead and Tonawanda in Erie County and all of Genesee County.

Senate seat goes to Kirsten Gillibrand

By Philip Anselmo

Gov. David Paterson has tapped Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, from Hudson, to fill the junior Senator seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, who has taken the post of Secretary of State in the new administration of President Barack Obama. Buffalo News reporter Tom Precious has all the details this morning. Precious calls Gillibrand "a moderate beginning her second term in the House." Gillibrand's office did not return calls for comment from the Buffalo office. Likely, she's a little busy today.

From Gillibrand's Web site:

In her first term in office, Congresswoman Gillibrand established herself as an independent leader in Congress. She was the lead sponsor of legislation that would implement the bipartisan 9/11 Commission Recommendations, which will help protect our borders and keep America safe. She has been an advocate for decreased federal spending, and introduced legislation that would require the federal government – just as all New York families do - to balance their budget every year. Finally, she has made tax cuts for Upstate and North Country families, one of her highest priorities. She has authored legislation that would double the tax credit for child care expenses and make up to $10,000 in college tuition tax deductible.

Precious reports that Gillibrand was getting the push from both Democrats and Republicans among her constituency, as well as from Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Gillibrand is a member of the conservative Blue Dog coalition in the House. She is known as “Little Hillary” — a nickname conferred by critics who claim she fancies herself the heir to Clinton’s job.

In recent days, gun-control advocates have come out against her because of her opposition to tougher gun laws.

Gillibrand, who also opposed the $700 million bailout of the financial industry, comes from a politically connected Albany family. Her father, Douglas Rutnick, was a lobbyist.

By the Numbers: School aid cuts as suggested in proposed state budget

By Philip Anselmo

If Gov. David Paterson's proposed state budget were to be passed as is tomorrow, Genesee County school aid would be looking at a loss of about $3.3 million compared with this past year's aid.

As for specific school districts within the county, here's the breakdown (based on proposed aid levels for the 2009-10 school year as compared with the current 2008-09 year):

• Alexander: A loss of $541,112, or 5.78 percent.

• Batavia: A loss of $637,011, or 3.14 percent.

• Byron-Bergen: A loss of $338,474, or 3.37 percent.

• Elba: A loss of $160,084, or 3.06 percent.

• Le Roy: A loss of $586,993, or 5.64 percent.

• Oakfield-Alabama: A loss of $372,623, or 3.57 percent.

• Pavilion: A loss of $163,353, or 1.88 percent.

• Pembroke: A loss of $537,260, or 5.01 percent.

Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer has teamed up with Paterson to seek federal block grants to help offset the cuts to school aid. Nothing specific is yet worked out on that. From Schumer's Web site:

There are various approaches that Congress can use to deliver these critical funds to students and schools. U.S. Senate and House Leadership are consulting with the President's team to determine the best, most effective way to provide schools with the targeted resources necessary to maintain jobs and academic programs. Congress is considering using existing federal education funding formulas, such as the one used for Title I, No Child Left Behind funding, to determine the amount each state will receive in block grants. Schumer said it is essential that the block grants are distributed in a way that gives states and districts the flexibility and tools they need to keep serving our children.

What do you think? Is shifting the burden from the state to the Fed to cover these deficits the best move? No matter where the "billions" Schumer quotes so frequently with such bravado come from, don't they, in the end, come from our pockets. But what other choice do we have? Should the schools suck it up and try to face the cuts? How can they?

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