Let me paint a scenario for you:

You sit at your job, a project deadline looming.  It is a project that is vital to your company’s future.  If you can’t get the project done, you run the risk that not only you will lose your job, but your co-workers may as well.  That knowledge, that reality, keeps you focused, so at the end of the day you accomplish your task.  The project is a success. You and  your co-workers remain employed. The company prospers.

That scenario is played out day after day, week after week, month after month in the private sector.  The hammer – the threat of job loss for you and others – keeps you on task and forces you to remain diligent in getting your work done.  Unfortunately, in state government, when it comes to property tax reform, there is no hammer hanging overhead that will force elected officials to get the work done and reform in place.  We at Unshackle Upstate believe a separate, stand-alone property tax cap would be that essential hammer. And that’s why we continue to advocate for a tax cap.

Don’t get me wrong.  Unshackle Upstate fully supports many of the reform/relief proposals put out by organizations like NYCOM and NYSAC.  The concerns they address are real –  the many laws and unfunded mandates that continually bleed our local governments and school districts.  Those issued need to be addressed with reforms put in place. Where we disagree is which must come first… the property tax cap or mandate relief?  It might sound like the “chicken and egg debate,” but it is really not.

The history of government in New York is loaded with examples of situations in which our elected officials walked away from their obligation to make tough decisions on the behalf of their constituents.  Just look at what has happened over the last two years.  In what has been called the worst recession in decades, we saw state spending go up more than 7 percent. We were hit with more than $9.2B in new taxes and fees. A antiquated, harmful laws that could have been repealed are still on the books.  Why?  Because there wasn’t a hammer over their heads to spur change.

We can dance around the issues all we’d like.  We can let conversations about ethics reform and redistricting distract us from what we know the crucial issues affecting us.  But we at Unshackle Upstate won’t do that.  We will continue to remind each and every elected official – and every New York resident – that at the root of what ails New York are high spending and taxes!  PERIOD!

True reform and relief will begin only when a property tax cap of 2 percent – with no exemptions – is passed.  In an op-ed in the Albany Times-Union, E.J. McMahon wrote that the property tax cap “is an essential catalyst — an absolute prerequisite for real and lasting change at every level of government in New York.”

We couldn’t agree more.