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April 21, 2014

In Our Opinion: There's a reason our taxes are so high

The Daily Star

---- — It is with a gimlet eye that we view the news that New York state has the highest “tax burden” in the nation. 

We are not arguing with the notion that New Yorkers pay the highest percentage of their income, on average, to state and local taxes. We have no quarrel with the Tax Foundation and the data it has collected. 

But let’s look at these numbers a little more closely. 

First of all, part of the reason the Empire State tops this list is because of high taxes on the wealthy. Wall Street earnings provide a major source of revenue for our state — revenue that flows upstate to help us pave our roads and conduct other necessary work. 

And even considering the taxes paid by ordinary folks, there’s a reason behind it. 

Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, pointed out that New York offers a “rich(er) array of services” than many other states, or than the federal standard requires. 

“New York is challenged because it offers so much,” Lopez noted. 

And many who complain about high taxes are at the same time the beneficiaries of that “rich array of services.” True, some of it is Medicaid and other services to the needy, but some of it is also roads and bridges — infrastructure upon which we all rely. 

Another component of this “burden,” though, comes from our high property tax rates — an issue Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature have sought to address with first the property tax “cap,” and now the property tax “freeze.” 

Both of these are euphemisms of a sort, but their aim is the same: to drive down the cost of property taxes for New Yorkers. 

Here again, lower taxes always sound like a nice plan. But when we look at the impact these plans are having on our local schools, the picture isn’t so pretty. 

For example: Two teachers and several teaching assistants will be losing their jobs at Delaware Academy Central School under the 2014-15 budget, according to Superintendent Jason Thomson. In Walton, three positions — including the high school principal — are being left unfilled; one elementary teacher, and some support staff, will lose their jobs. 

“Five years of failed New York state school funding policy has taken its toll,” Walton Central School Board President Judy Breese said in a news release. “We have trimmed everywhere we can and used almost the last of our reserves. We have no choice but to make deep cuts.”  

It’s easy to grumble when making that check out to “New York State Income Tax,” or when paying what often seem like high property taxes. But it’s worth remembering that many people rely on this money to put food on their tables, to get the medical care they need — or for their livelihoods.