Monday, February 9, 2009

Opinion: State Needs to Pay Its Fair Share

There is a crisis brewing in the Adirondacks, one that shows David Paterson to be what many of our neighbors feared he would be – another downstate politician with little concern for the people of the Adirondacks. Paterson’s budget plans would not only slash local opportunities for an education (Tupper Lake, teachers, college), health care services, and other important programs (STAR tax rebate), it will also force some Adirondackers to lose their homes, and will make protection of the Adirondacks exceedingly difficult.

One of the most dangerous parts of Paterson’s proposal is to cap the amount the state pays for property tax on land it owns (that’s a map at left) – an outrageous affront to all New Yorkers who are burdened with high property taxes and high unemployment that make home ownership a year 2000 phenomenon.

If the state doesn’t have to pay taxes on its land when they have less income – then why do we? Fred LeBrun over at the Times Union, wrote a lengthy piece this past week explaining the problem of state tax payments:

The state paying taxes just as you and I would in certain instances stems from an act of the Legislature back in 1886, a year after the creation of the State Forest Preserve. The Legislature recognized the hardship state ownership of big blocks of constitutionally protected land placed on the towns and villages which are home to them, and felt the state needed to be a dutiful taxpayer in these places to compensate.

LeBrun notes the devastating impact the Governor’s proposals will have on locals:

You know how fast your school taxes have grown over the years, so it doesn’t take a vivid imagination to see how quickly the disparity will grow between what the state as citizen is paying and what plain folks are forking over. But the impact in the Adirondacks would be far greater proportionally, and manifest in multiple ways. The town of Newcomb, headed by my old friend Supervisor George Canon, is a prime example. Eighty-four percent of the town is within the Forest Preserve. A coalition of more than 100 local leaders in the Catskills and Adirondacks, adamantly opposed to the governor’s plan, did the math. The group says the tax cap would mean annual increases of nearly 20 percent for local taxpayers just to keep pace with inflation.

Of ultimately far greater significance is what this violation of a covenant will mean for future land acquisition in the Adirondacks, and in the Catskills too. Local governments in both places are already deeply skeptical of the state, or New York City, gobbling up developable land and choking a municipality’s ability to grow, or even use the land involved in economically sustainable ways.

I understand we are facing difficult economic times and I’m not one to raise the flag for program after program in tough times, but this is going way too far. A fair system of taxation ranks at the top of the list of American values.

Here are some nuggets:

This year, the state paid $69 million in local taxes on the State Forest Preserve’s, 2.7 million Adirondack acres (and 288,000 acres in the Catskill Park).

David Paterson has nearly $5 Million in his campaign war chest.[link]

Jim Tedisco Republican candidate for Gillibrand’s seat billed the state $21,343 in oil and gas receipts for his taxpayer funded vehicle, to drive him from between the State Capitol and Schenectady. [link]

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.




3 Responses

  1. Marsha Stanley says:

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Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.