Looking Back at 2009 Provides Multiple Reasons for Change in 2010

This year proved to have its many challenges and disappointments. Perhaps the year’s greatest disappointment, however, was the budget that passed in the spring of 2009. It contained $8.2 billion in taxes and fee increases and increased government spending by 10 percent. As a result, the average family of four will pay an extra $2,362 in higher taxes and fees this year.

I voted against this terrible budget and, since then, have repeatedly explained in this space how increased motor vehicle fees, recreational fees, and energy taxes would harm our Upstate economy and residents.

Here are a few of the catastrophes of 2009:

  • While the state raised spending, it did so at the expense of Upstate taxpayers. For one, this year’s budget eliminated the STAR property tax rebate checks. On average, the STAR rebate checks saved homeowners $386 and seniors $458 off their property tax bills. This is thanks to our downstate leaders, who primarily hail from New York City.
  • Consumers saw energy taxes rise by $520 million as part of the utility assessment tax. New York businesses, in particular, are feeling the effects of this new assessment. I am in support of legislation that repeals this harmful business tax.
  • Department of Motor Vehicle fees increased. Driver licenses went up 25% while vehicle registrations and a much-criticized attempt to force motorists to pay for new license plates also passed in the budget. Though the governor has said he will remove the latter mandate, it hasn’t happened yet and goes into effect in April.
  • Sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts had to start paying for 41 separate license and fee hikes.
  • State park fees increased by up to 25 percent.
  • After the bloated budget passed, the state realized its expenditures were greater than its earnings. To any budget watchdog, this came as no surprise. As a way to close the first budget deficit of 2009, health insurance premiums, or so called “sick taxes”, were passed. Here again, a New York family of four can expect health care premiums to increase by $174 this year alone.

While these are the setbacks of 2009, I am hopeful as we look forward to 2010, and the legislative session which begins this month, to address the pressing needs of New Yorkers in the new year.

Much needs to be done to reform New York’s fiscal health. We still need real, substantive spending reductions including state agency consolidations, a ban on unfunded mandates and lifting the financial burden on localities and school districts. We still need to reform the budget process, to make it more open and inclusive.

Energy is also high on the list of concerns. As our country makes attempts to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and make heating our homes and businesses more affordable, one way we can do that is to create more competition in the marketplace. One way to accomplish this is to create more major electric generating facilities and to allow the public to be involved in this decision early on. Experts predict there will be an energy shortfall that could begin to impact downstate capacity and reliability throughout 2011. Since it takes about five years to site and build a power plant in New York, the critical time for allowing such facilities to build in New York is now. Otherwise, we lose those jobs and revenue to another state or country. I’ve been a proponent to renew Article X, which would enable such facilities to be built. One is proposed in Oswego and I support this endeavor.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling (315) 598-5185.