Adirondack municipalities, along with environmental protectionists, are up in arms over Gov. David Paterson’s plan to freeze the property taxes paid on state land at 2008 levels. That’s understandable, because the state is the biggest landowner in some of these communities, so the move could eventually have a big impact on their revenues.
Were that to happen, local taxes would have to be raised on a generally struggling population, and there would be increased pressure for land sales and development in those communities to offset the lost revenue — additional cause for concern.
But as with the equally unpopular plans to tax theater tickets, sugar-laden soft drinks, massages, etc. Paterson is not proposing this because he’s mean or greedy; he’s trying to balance a state budget with an unprecedented $13 billion hole. That’s a tall order which a multitude of special interest groups just don’t seem to appreciate.
Everyone everywhere has at least one sacred cow. You can read about them almost daily in this page’s letters to the editor section or — in the case of the well-heeled state workers’ unions — see them advertised on TV. Perhaps because the state Legislature has caved in so many times in the past, the thinking is it will do so again; so people are making their cases, applying whatever pressure they can muster and hoping for the best.
The trouble is, the budget crisis won’t be solved with another status quo budget. Cuts will have to be made and taxes will have to be raised, substantially, and trying to postpone the day of reckoning will only make the ultimate fix worse.
This is not to say that the arguments being made don’t have some validity; many of them do, including the one over the freeze on state property tax payments. But the state is in a genuine crisis, and can’t keep spending (or borrowing) the way it has in the past. The governor understands that, but too few other New Yorkers seem to.