There has been a great deal of chatter about property taxes, both within our social media platform and in the NYS Senate. If you follow the media and the blogs, much of the rationale being spouted as to why the budget is late is the need to do something about property taxes. We couldn’t agree more that our property taxes are stifling and need to be fixed.

As we shared with you this week, Upstate NY is home not to just nine, but now the 10 highest-taxed counties in the country as a percentage of home value. What does that mean? Those of us in Upstate NY now pay more in taxes for the same priced home than most of the rest of the country. Isn’t that a great distinction to have?

People wonder why are our taxes so much higher? We don’t have enough time to cover all of the reasons, but here are a few:
• Education: we pay more per capita than any other state, yet our results are not commensurate.
• Medicaid: at roughly $51 billion, NY’s Medicaid budget is larger than the entire budget of more than 40 states.
• Labor: NY has far too many public employees who have an expensive pension system supported by taxpayers.

The three areas listed above account for roughly 66 percent of state-controlled spending. And they all deal with people and services. So the concept of cutting into those services makes some elected officials very nervous. That often leads to other “solutions” that entail giving something back to taxpayers, while failing to fix the real core issue of what is driving up our taxes.

In this instance, the property tax “reform” that is holding up the budget in the Senate is a rebate program they propose to give to a very small segment of the population. Not one that is given to all of us…just a few of us. And that simply won’t work for us. We need concrete changes to alter the course of property tax rate increases.

Unshackle Upstate has advanced a bill that will do just that. We have presented a plan that will not only make our property taxes predictable, but will also lead to long-term reductions in spending, and thus a decrease in our property tax burden.

What is the plan? It includes:
• An annual property tax cap that will not exceed 2.5 percent.
• An annual school tax cap that will not exceed 2.5 percent.
• Mandate relief so the state cannot adopt new laws that pass cost down to local governments and schools.
• The ability for voters to override the cap for one year to allow special projects, emergency needs, etc.
• An underride provision that will allow voters to offer a cap lower than 2.5 percent.

The plan mirrors one that was passed in Massachusetts several years ago. And what happened in Massachusetts? The state we used to call Taxachusetts? They went from 3rd to 33rd in property taxes and it did not affect their school performance, with their students scoring well on national tests.

Better options exist then simply applying a Band-Aid to the gaping wound of property taxes. It is time for our elected officials to look at what other state governments have done to fix their ills.

We need real leadership on this issue. Who will come to rescue?