Hopes for a Taxpayer Friendly 2018


It’s laudable that our state legislators lashed out against parts of the federal tax plan that will hurt New York. But the taxpayer protection measures below are all within the power of these same legislators.

Will their votes back up their rhetoric? We will find out over the months to come.

From all of us at the Center for Cost Effective Governance, here are our wishes for the upcoming year.

1. Make the two percent property tax permanent
This important protection should not be a bargaining chip for New York City legislators on extraneous matters every few years. Make it permanent.

2. Stop circumventing the tax cap
Since interest on bonds is exempt from the tax cap, more and more schools have been floating bonds of over $200 million, which cost each household about $250 per year for several decades. Make the cap a real cap. At the very least, require any bonding votes be held on the same day as the budget vote in May; not in winter, when folks are away.

3. Return school surpluses
Let this be the year the courts enforce provisions that require schools to return surpluses over four percent back to the taxpayers. This law has been ignored for too long. A law should be passed permitting the Comptroller to intercept state aid for districts keeping too much surplus, and return it directly to taxpayers.

4. Eliminate overtime from pensions
Employee shouldn’t be able to double their pensions by working unlimited overtime in the last few years of service, thereby artificially increasing their base salary on which the pension is set. Six-figure pensions are becoming commonplace in public safety unions. It’s unsustainable.

5. Allow schools to buy off of the federal purchasing list
At the Center’s request, Rep. Lee Zeldin has sponsored a bill to allow schools to buy goods off the federal vendor list, as they can presently off the state list. The larger the pool, the lower the cost.

6. Abolish the Railroad Disability Board
Years after it was uncovered that 97 percent of retired LIRR employees were receiving disability pensions, reforms were supposedly enacted. The result? Ninety percent of employees are still being granted such pensions. Throw this board overboard and let claims be heard through a more balanced entity.

7. End Gerrymandering
As we approach the 2020 census, government should be preparing to implement nonpartisan, independent redistricting panels.

8. End Union Leave
Either the courts or the Legislature should invalidate the concept of having taxpayer dollars used to free up union leaders to lobby for their union issues, which often result in higher taxes. Let union dues pay for that purpose, as is the case in the private sector.

9. Suffolk’s first I&R
This may be the year that citizens finally implement a successful Initiative and Referendum petition in Suffolk County. It’s possible there may be a proposal requiring all budget votes be taken before, rather than after, the election.

10. End the Scaffold LawNew York is the only state that makes a building owner absolutely liable for worker injuries, even if the injuries were caused by the workers’ negligence. It’s estimated this law adds $10,000 to the construction of every new home.

Steve Levy is Executive Director of the Center for Cost Effective Governance. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a NYS Assemblyman, and host of “The Steve Levy Radio Show.”