Joe Taxpayer

Joe Taxpayer is meant to represent you - a mother, father, student, homeowner, renter, employer, employee - a citizen of New York and a taxpayer.

It’s easy for important issues to get lost in legalistic policy-speak. Joe's blog is intended to help you better understand - in practical, real-life terms - how actions by the state government in Albany have an impact on you in your community, including the property taxes you pay.

Stop the Mandate Madness PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 08:12
After five months of talking about the dangers of tax shifting, I was very happy to wake up to a front page headline in the Empire Falls Times today declaring, "Governor Seeks an End to State Mandates." StopTheTaxShift has highlighted the dozens of offensive and expensive mandates that already cost New Yorkers hundreds of millions of dollars, and without a doubt our state's future depends on these mandates being reformed or repealed immediately. But it is also important that we stop the madness of new state mandates that continually ignore local control and put even more pressure on the property taxes that drive our friends and relatives - and, ultimately, you and me - out of New York.

Turn on any news report and you will here the latest slogan of politicians: "transparency," From what I gather, transparency is supposed to mean openness and accountability. Maybe I'm a bit cynical, but I think the word is overused and underutilized.

Now, with Governor Paterson's Executive Order, it looks like we have a state government that is willing to use transparency to expose the dirty little secret of tax shifting. The Executive Order works like this: if any legislation or regulation from a state office or agency includes a mandate on municipalities, the office or agency must now estimate the mandate's cost to local governments, compare the public cost to the public benefit, and identify the revenue that is going to pay for the mandate. If the state government can actually live by these new rules, New York can finally begin to stop the mandate madness.

I applaud Governor Paterson for taking this important and historic step toward holding the state accountable for the taxes it would shift onto our overburdened property taxpayers. Now it's time for New Yorkers to tell the Senate and Assembly to do the same with all of the bills they propose and pass.

If Not Now, When? PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 20 April 2009 12:07
As you probably know from news reports and our Stop the Tax Shift home page, legislators have passed New York's state budget for 2009-10. With a $17 billion budget deficit, I think every New Yorker knew it would be a painful budget, with funding cuts and increases in taxes and fees. And it sure was. I can accept that, but only if the Legislature is also willing to get rid of the many state mandates that make government so unaffordable for our taxpayers. As Stop the Tax Shift highlights every Monday with the Mandate of the Week, there is no shortage of mandates, big and small.

For example, we need a more reasonable and affordable public pension system, realistic thresholds for competitive bidding, and liability laws that treat governments the same as the private sector. This mandate relief, like most, wouldn't cost the state treasury a dime, but would produce real savings for New York's #1 special interest taxpayers.

Yet year after year the mandates remain, local government gets more expensive, and property taxpayers are left holding the bag. New York can't let special interests and political fears stop us from finally killing the mandate monster that is strangling the life out of New York. If the State Legislature and the Governor won't do that now - at this time of financial crisis - when will they?

Shovel Ready PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 February 2009 10:26
I didn't expect to be using my blog to write about national issues, but with the economic crisis and all the talk about federal stimulus, it's about time I weighed in.

As everybody knows, this Web site is about the negative effects of tax shifting -- one government pushing its responibilities and expenses onto a lower level of government. In my mind, the stimulus package signed this week by President Obama is just the opposite of tax shifting. If it is done right, it will be the kind of "tax returning" that I've been waiting a long time to see.

Ask anyone in Empire Falls -- stop in McSorley's Butcher Shoppe, Mahoney's Grill or Judi's Cut 'n Curl -- and you'll hear the same complaint. We keep paying federal taxes, but rarely, if ever, do we feel like there is any benefit coming back to us.

Now is the time to change the feeling of disconnectedness we have with our federal government. Empire Falls has plenty of infrastructure projects ready to go, including road improvements, water and sewer upgrades, and energy efficiency initiatives. And each one of the projects would create jobs, promote economic development, and improve the quality of life for our historic municipality.

In a time of questionable investment strategies, sending Federal Stimulus money back to communities like ours is a smart investment. Our projects are ready, and we have the shovels and workers ready to get the job done.

It's A Wonderful State PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 December 2008 15:23
I'm happy to say that I've got the Christmas shopping done and the diner is closed today and tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to relaxing, spending time with the family, and (I'm sure) watching some football. But, first, we have some catching up to do.

With the holiday craziness I haven't had a chance to give you my reaction of the state budget Governor Paterson proposed last week. Empire Falls' mayor, Mike O'Brien, stopped in for breakfast on Monday and I grilled him pretty good on what is and isn't in the budget. I've also spent time online checking out what others are saying about the Governor's approach to getting New York out of its fiscal mess.

Hunting for Answers PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 November 2008 14:10
Sorry about the delay in writing, but I was away on a hunting trip with a bunch of my buddies from Empire Falls. Each year we spend four days deer hunting at a cabin near Cooperstown. We call it a hunting trip, but there is a lot more to it than that. The planning, grocery shopping, road trip, set-up, cooking and eating are all important parts of the event, not to mention the ribbing we all give and get. But, ultimately, what we remember most about the trip are the things we talk about and what is said (and not said).

Not surprisingly, this year we spent a lot of time talking about the scary state of the economy. Being from Upstate, we have spent many a hunting trip talking about the economic problems facing New York. But now it's different. While we haven't exactly been thriving in New York over the past twenty years, we've been able to get by. Me and the boys now question whether New York can move forward without really changing our ways.

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