As the state legislative session comes to a close, we often focus on the things the Legislature should be doing.
We listed a whole bunch in our Sunday editorial.
Child Victims Act. Procurement reform. Database of Deals. LLC reform. Campaign finance reform. Ethics reform. Expansion of voter access to the polls.
That sort of stuff.
But there are also plenty of things lawmakers shouldn’t do before they go home for the summer next week.
In these cases, political gridlock, partisanship and philosophical differences are actually a good thing for New Yorkers.
If the Legislature takes action on a handful of measures, it will end up hurting taxpayers rather than helping them, making New York even more expensive to live in and impeding economic development.
In an article for the government watchdog group the Empire Center, writer Ken Girardin pointed out how state lawmakers are considering a number of potentially expensive pieces of legislation.
Among them are expanding the prevailing wage law to non-government entities, adding costly unfunded state mandates to local governments by expanding post-employment benefits for government workers, making it easier to override the local property tax cap that has helped rein in New York’s ever-growing tax burden, expanding tax credits to video-game makers and the music industry, increasing pensions for public workers, and mandating more state mandates on the health care system.
The state’s prevailing wage laws require contractors to pay the local “prevailing wage” on publicly funded construction projects. This law, designed to protect and promote unions, costs New York taxpayers billions on public works projects.
Whether you agree with the law or not, a proposed expansion of the types of activities that must adhere to the prevailing wage law is taking matters too far.
Under the bill (A5498/S2975), all projects paid for in whole or in part with public funds, as well as certain construction work performed under private contract, would be subject to prevailing wage.
That would expand the coverage to projects supported by bonds and grants from the state, public entities or third parties acting on behalf of a government entity, and projects receiving certain loans, tax credits and other forms of public subsidies.
That’s a far cry from simple public works projects, and could substantially raise the cost of many projects not currently covered by the existing law. The result will be higher construction costs and higher costs for consumers.
This is one piece of legislation for which we’re rooting for lawmakers to sit on their hands.
Another bill cited by the Empire Center (A5455/S8220) would prohibit state and local governments from diminishing the health insurance benefits of retirees and their dependents, as well as diminishing the employer contribution toward that health insurance
Since government boards couldn’t diminish the increases, it essentially means taxpayers would have to pay 100 percent of any future cost increases, according to the Empire Center.
Local governments need to have the flexibility to negotiate lower costs on behalf of taxpayers.
This bill would take that ability away and help drive up the taxes that pay for these benefits.
Again, no action is better than action.
We’ve written in support of maintaining the current tax cap requirements, including the override provision that requires a 60 percent super-majority of voters to override the cap on school tax levies. But some lawmakers, under pressure from unions, school boards and advocates for more educational spending, want the restrictions loosened.
It should be difficult to override the tax cap, not easy, because it helps contain not only property taxes, but helps control excessive government spending.
Adding to pension costs will drive up taxes even further on strapped New Yorkers, and expanding the current $445 million annual tax break for the film and TV industry to music producers and video-game developers represents just another unjustified giveaway of taxpayer dollars. These bills need to disappear.
There’s a lot our state lawmakers should be actively doing to improve the lives of New Yorkers and help control their taxes.
There’s also a lot they shouldn’t be doing.
Let’s hope that in these cases only, dysfunction prevails.