The caller was angry, there was no doubting that. He is an anonymous taxpayer from North Tonawanda, and he’s not happy with what he believes is unnecessary spending by city government. I didn’t speak to him directly; we don’t get that chance when reviewing Sound Off.

Emotions such as sarcasm and anger — which drives 80 percent of the Sound Off callers by my estimation — don’t translate well in print. But, there was no mistaking this man’s emotion: he’s perturbed. For those of you who may have missed it, the Sound Off caller’s comments appeared in the Aug. 27 edition of the Tonawanda News. Here is a portion of it:

“Where does it say that the City of North Tonawanda, or any government for that matter, is required to entertain its citizens? Our taxes should go toward police, fire and roads. That’s it. My taxes should not go toward hockey rinks, skate parks, concerts, roller rinks or anything like that. Leave that to the private sector.”

My reaction? “Amen, brother!”

Taxes in New York state are ridiculously high and I, too, am fed up. I try to control what I can, which basically amounts to my refusal to live in a village where I would be double taxed. Apart from that, there’s not much that I, one New Yorker, can do to limit what I pay in taxes. From this position, though, I can offer a suggestion: cut public salaries at the local, state and federal levels. That’s what’s really hurting our wallets.

I’m sure there are many in the public sector who will burn a likeness of me in effigy for the following, but consider this September 2006 report from the Empire Center for Public Policy: there are roughly 1.3 million state and local government employees in the Empire state. Since the last “economic downturn” in 2000, more public jobs have been created in New York, even as billions of dollars were lost following 9/11.

“While New York’s private sector economy has yet to fully recover from its last downturn, state and local government employees are more numerous than ever, economically more secure, and generally better compensated than private sector workers,” the center reported.

In 2005, the average state and “local government” employee in Erie County earned $40,078 while those in the private sector earned $34,407. The numbers are similar in Niagara County: $37,011 for public employees; $32,339 in the private sector. Ouch. Throw in the benefits to public employees that were expanded when the economy was surging in the 1990s, and you have a double-edged sword slicing up the belly of the pig.

Elect the candidates willing to take on this challenge, instead of those who scream “you can’t” or inexplicably say they “don’t know how” to cut the budget. Those who say this are either unimaginative or are in the pockets of the public sector’s powerful lobbyists. It’s easier to determine the second part by simply examining the groups that endorse each candidate.

“Ask not what can your country do for you, but what can you do for your country,” John F. Kennedy once challenged Americans. That famous provocation has since been lost by members of his own party, and Republicans aren’t far behind.

As for the specific items mentioned by the caller, I agree that the public shouldn’t be funding unnecessary projects, but we must determine what’s in excess. There is always fat that can be trimmed from any budget, but there are other services worthy of our tax dollars. Libraries, for instance.

I have always believed that libraries are worth funding, if for no other reason than they are a great equalizer. They don’t discriminate. A millionaire can walk into a library and borrow a book just as easily as the kid earning minimum wage.

Of course, leave some things to the private sector, and you’ll likely price out a few people from the event. Sure, we could live without a recreation department, parks department and stipends to cultural not-for-profits, but quality of life would suffer. Some benefits must be measured by the dollars spent in local businesses by people attracted here by a concert, festival or park.

Yes, budgets must be cut. Just make sure it’s the fat and not a ligament.

Read article here

You may also like

Here’s Cuomo’s Plan for Reopening New York

Jesse McKinley ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday presented a soft blueprint for how New York State’s economy might begi Read More

States with few virus cases get big share of relief aid

Geoff Mulvihill Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming are not epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet these four states scored big this spri Read More

What to expect in the state’s first round of spending cuts

Rebecca Lewis Regular viewers of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus press briefings have heard the governor say time and again that New York state is broke. Revenue projections are way down and the state is facing a budget deficit that is Read More

Eyeing Medicaid Cuts, Cuomo Puts His Stamp On A $3 Trillion Stimulus Bill

Caroline Lewis During state budget discussions in March, Governor Andrew Cuomo  that the pandemic would not stop him from pushing through changes to Medicaid that he said were necessary to contain the growth of its more than $70 billion annu Read More

Hospitals, nursing homes face another Medicaid cut during pandemic

Michael Gormley ALBANY — The state told hospitals and nursing homes this week that they will be hit with another cut in Medicaid funding as the health care system reels from costs related to fighting the COVID-19 virus and state revenue plum Read More

Port Authority’s Bloated Payroll Grew $150 Million Last Year: Report

Eve Kessler he Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s payroll ballooned by $150 million last year — a bad look when the agency is asking the federal government , including the . According to the Empire Center, a conservative-lean Read More

Regional leaders play limited role in Western New York’s reopening

Caitlin Dewey Western New York’s regional “control room” meets by phone for as long as an hour each day, opening with a briefing from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul before officials trade local updates, case numbers and complaints. The group, Read More

Cuomo criticized for not exempting out-of-state health care workers from income tax

Joe Chen New York policy leaders say that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to not exempt out-of-state health care workers from the state’s income tax makes the state appear ungrateful for their help. “Cuomo told those he was asking to com Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.