(cross-posted at SLCLiberty [digg link])
It took a recommendation by the Property Tax commission to do it. David Paterson has issued an executive order to the State Legislature requiring that all new legislation with attached costs must also come with a plan to pay for it. Traditionally, Albany has simply issued mandates without such a requirement, leaving local municipalities to foot the bill. Meaning, in general, insanely high property taxes. Because, evidently, we still have too much money in our pocketbooks after all the other insanely high taxes here in New York.
But, says Paterson, that is no longer the way of Albany.
"We will now have a pay -as-you-go philosophy in Albany," said Paterson. "You pass a bill and it costs us money, you also have to show how we'll pay for it. If not, we cannot do it at this time."
I would echo the NY Republican leadership here, that Paterson's new order flies in the face of his own actions:
But Republicans say the governor's mandate relief announcement is counter to what his budget actually does. They say by passing measures like the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms, which pushes more costs down to counties, and by eliminating programs such as the STAR rebate checks, New Yorkers are hurting now more than ever
But, even if that were not the case, I am not convinced the new Executive Order actually solves any problems.
My wife and I have a policy where we never buy something we don't have the cash for. If we can't afford it today, we don't get it. We own debit cards, and not a single credit card between us. This ensures our policy sticks, in the face of temptation. We are forced to recognize that buying one thing means not having money available for something else. In general, not only is this sound financial policy for families, but also for business and, yes, governments.
The problem is, for too long, states like New York have tended to act as though the taxpayer is a limitless source of income. Need to pay for something? Put it on the taxpayer. Paterson addresses a part of this tendency: Albany's traditional policy of pushing the cost of new mandates onto homeowners. In and of itself, this seems like a good start. In reality, it treats a symptom of the greater disease, and with potential side effects that are just as bad as the symptom. It's like treating a tension headache with a medicine that causes ulcers. It neither addresses the tension at the root of the headache nor provides the patient with real relief. It just shifts the burden.
Putting taxpayers on the hook at a hundred bucks a year for some mandate takes that money from the taxpayer. Whether it comes through property tax, income tax, or some new usage fee is beside the point. Unlike the government, the average taxpayer does not have an income source that can give out more when he lives beyond his means. And, in the case of usage fees, which seem to be Paterson's modus operandi, what that means is that where such fees are attached, services are used less. Which means, ultimately, the money will come from somewhere else anyway.
Certain people, who either haven't bothered to educate themselves about the truth, or are being deliberately obtuse, have painted the Tea Parties of this month as mere "anti-tax" rallies by people who want government services, but don't want to pay for them. It may make for a good soundbite, but this clear nonsense obfuscates reality. What we want is responsible government. We want government who realizes that we don't work in order to fund state programs, but to provide for our families and to live our lives. We want Albany -- and Washington -- to understand that government is meant to be peripheral, not central, to our daily lives. And, that said, we want them to start using our money -- that's our money, not theirs -- more wisely.
We don't want empty words from Paterson, finally making the suggestion that Albany behave as though they understand they actually have to pay for the things they put into law. We want action that shows that Albany understands the citizens of New York simply can't send all their money to the State Capitol to fund every pet project that comes along.
Personally, I'd like to see an extended moratorium on all new spending. But I'm not holding my breath.
I'd settle for a State -- and national -- government that looked for real areas to cut spending. A lot of spending. Not these drop-in-the-bucket cuts like those suggested by Obama for Washington and Paterson for Albany, but real examinations of current spending, followed up with real reductions in beaurocracy and spending.
What we, the taxpayers, would settle for, is a government that stopped talking up fiscal responsibility, and started acting like it was a priority.