The Daily Gazette
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Tax cap can help for only so long

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Whither New York’s tax cap? More and more municipalities wrestling with budget realities have been voting to override the 2 percent limit on increases to the tax levy, and it’s not hard to see why. Fulton County is the latest example. Its tentative 2013 budget, 5 percent lower than the current year’s, requires a 15 percent tax levy increase — thanks to higher costs for health insurance, Medicaid, employee pensions and the like. Not surprisingly, ...

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November 19, 2012
12:07 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

As a candidate for State Comptroller in 2010, I was opposed to then candidate for governor Cuomo's tax cap proposal for the very reasons that you have written in your editorial. I know first hand how the tax cap is a false promise from an ignorant politician who has no clue how a local government works. The Legislature is complicit in this charade because they refuse to reduce the mandated burdens that they have passed down to local governments. But they are not alone. The State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is also very much at fault in this situation. Being that he is the sole trustee of the Public Employees Pension System his mismanagement of that system has created the most significant burden on local governments of all the mandates. He continually raises the amount that local governments have to contribute for their employees' pensions annually. Since he took over the office in 2007, he has told the local governments to contribute an additional 8%, 12%, 16%, 18%, and now 20%. His excuse has been that the 2008 stock market downturn is the culprit. But the stock market had gained until recently almost all of its losses since 2008. What this means is his mismanagement of the investments made for the pension fund have been very poor and that his assumptions for the necessary rate of return were wrong.

Mr. DiNapoli does not have a finance background which is a big part of his problem. But a finance background hasn't been a big plus for past Comptrollers either. Former Comptroller Carl McCall has a finance background but he set all of this mess into motion back in the late 90's when during the tech stock bubble boom on the stock market, he told government employers that they did not have to contribute to the pension fund for several years because the fund was in great shape. Government employers are still paying for that grave mistake. Unfortunately, Mr. DiNapoli has two more years left on his current term in office. We can look forward to higher pension contributions for local governments until he leaves office.

What I proposed when I ran for Comptroller was that an independent board of trustees be created to oversee the pension fund investments. This board would be made up of parties that have an interest in the fund. That is employees, employers, and tax payers not patronage appointees. One public sector union - PEF - did not like this idea when they interviewed me for a possible endorsement. They will reap what they sow.

Until the mandates are eliminated, the local tax burden will continue to rise. We need to pressure the Governor and the Legislature to relieve this burden. Your newspaper could be a great help by calling for action.

Thank you,

John A. Gaetani
49 Cedar Ln
Glenville, NY

November 19, 2012
1:05 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Cuomo knew very well that the cap would make the localities realize their unsustainable structures, and it is working, people are starting to realize that having a new government every 5 miles is inefficient, divisive and anachronistic. In responding to the wailing of the locals he is ensuring their modernization.
See his recent musings for evidence of his foresight: