Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

For Release — Wednesday, April 30, 2003


ALBANY—The Business Council today challenged state Legislators to freeze property taxes in New York for one year, if they truly believe that state tax increases are the way to prevent property-tax increases.

"The idea that higher state taxes will mean lower local taxes is a delusion," Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh said in a letter delivered to state Legislators today. "It is the oldest canard in Albany. Like Lucy with the football, year after year someone sets this game up, we run down for the kick, and the taxpayers end up landing on their backs-with higher property taxes.

"The way to cut local taxes is to cut local costs, not increase state taxes," the letter said.

But if legislators buy the argument that higher state taxes can obviate property-tax increases, they should feel free to enact a statutory freeze on property taxes.

"We believe that state tax increases will damage our economy," Walsh wrote. "We believe that mandate relief and a wage freeze are better ways to help localities cut costs. But if you think higher state taxes will hold down local taxes, stand up for your beliefs and enact a freeze on property taxes at the same time.

"Let's convert some of this wishful thinking into reality."

The letter noted that proposed revenue measures would increase sales and income taxes while repealing incentives for major business investments "at the very time we need them most-now.

"Every one of these tax increases would be a mistake. Just as the tax cuts you enacted have brought thousands of new jobs to New York, these tax increase would drive thousands of good jobs away."

Walsh noted that New Yorkers who work in the private sector have already seen more than 300,000 private-sector jobs lost in the economic downturn of the last two years. "Now, at the behest of the unions representing public-sector workers, you are told that higher taxes on working families and on employers are the answer," Walsh wrote.

Higher taxes are under discussion in part because lawmakers have taken no action to stop the waste of taxpayer dollars by enacting cost cutting reforms, such as tort reform to eliminate lawsuit abuse, repeal of the Wicks Law, or reform of costly prevailing-wage laws.

Such mandate-relief ideas could cut local costs, Walsh noted. So could a one-year pay freeze for public employees. The Public Policy Institute, the research affiliate of The Business Council, has calculated that a one-year freeze on state and local government wages could save the state, its localities, and its school districts from $2 to $3 billion.

The short-sighted increases in spending and taxes that lawmakers are considering risk undoing New York's enormous progress in recent years, sending the business world's decision-makers the message that "New York is going backward, rather than forward. The inevitable result will be that thousands of working men and women will lose the opportunity for a good job in the Empire State."