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September 22, 2005

Spitzer: State needs more accountable government; proposed amendment wouldn't help

Although New York State government needs to be more helpful to the private sector and more accountable to all New Yorkers, a controversial proposed amendment to the state Constitution would make state government less accountable and should be rejected, state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer told business leaders at The Business Council’s Annual Meeting Sept. 21.

"There simply isn’t accountability in state government," said Spitzer, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2006. But he added: "I believe we will get more accountability if we turned down the proposed amendment."

The amendment is being marketed to taxpayers as "budget reform," but fiscal-policy experts, editorial pages, former state budget directors, former Gov. Hugh Carey, Governor Pataki, and Spitzer have widely denounced it as a legislative power grab. The Business Council opposes the amendment.

Declaring that state government has not done enough to help New York’s businesses, Spitzer noted that government has partnered with businesses to aid past economic metamorphoses.

For example, major public projects such as the construction of the Erie Canal and the New York State Thruway, and the development of the CUNY and SUNY college networks, helped New York successfully navigate economic transitions as the economy adapted to the waxing and waning of agriculture, shipping, and manufacturing.

Now globalization is posing new competitive challenges to New York and making another change necessary, but New York is doing little to help its economy adapt and continues to saddle the businesses here with high costs of energy, taxes, and health insurance, he noted.

He noted, for example, that New York’s costs of energy, business taxes, and health insurance are among the nation’s highest. New York’s overall tax burden has remained high as the state has pushed the tax burden down to property taxes, he added.

"It’s a shell game. You cannot claim that state taxes are down when they are up high enough in counties and localities to match and overcome state taxes," Spitzer said. "And if New York’s taxes, all told, are still higher than other states, we’re failing."