Take the money, but don’t take the bait.
Your New York state government is having a burst of unexpected efficiency, finding a way to send out annual tax credit checks that could net 2 million state homeowners anywhere from less than $200 to several hundred dollars.
The fact that the checks will arrive over the next few weeks is good news for homeowners, particularly those who might need some help paying their school taxes at the end of September.
In the past, these rebate checks —available to income-eligible homeowners who receive the STAR tax exemption in school districts that meet the state tax cap — have been delayed until well after they could become useful to helping offset the school tax.
But suddenly this year, the state Department of Taxation and Finance has gotten its act together and is mailing the $1 billion worth of checks out now, well before the Oct. 31 deadline.
Coincidentally — or perhaps not — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul are running for re-election and are fighting to keep their seats in a Democratic Party primary on Sept. 13, less than two weeks from now. And all state legislators and the state comptroller are up for re-election in November.
It certainly makes you feel good about your state government when a bunch of money from the state unexpectedly arrives in your mailbox, doesn’t it?
But if you’re inclined to reward any state official with your vote for this fortuitously-timed largess, keep your head.
First of all, this is money that already belongs to you. It’s not an extra gift from your fine public servants in Albany. You already pay among the highest property taxes in the country. The STAR rebate program just offers some residents a slightly lower amount of taxes to pay.
Second, not only is issuing the checks labor-intensive and expensive (at taxpayer expense), it’s also unnecessary.
Prior to the state deciding to mail out checks, STAR rebates were included as an automatic deduction from an individual’s property tax bill. Why not use 21st century technology to automatically apply the deduction electronically to individuals’ tax bills, rather than going to the effort and expense of mailing checks?
Third, the reason you need a tax rebate in the first place is because the state can’t control its spending. When you’re voting, ask yourself whether those state officials responsible for your newfound windfall have done enough to reduce what you’re already paying in taxes.
Finally, government is supposed to work efficiently. It almost never does, but that’s the goal anyway. Should politicians be rewarded just because a government department happened to do its job right this particular time?
If you’re getting a check, be happy. Cash it and use it for your taxes or whatever you want. It’s your money.
But don’t get carried away and reward incumbent politicians for it.