This week's "My turn" column is by Rob Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the Otsego County Chamber.

We are facing some of the most challenging times most of us have witnessed. All around, we see things we thought were solid fall apart right before our eyes due to greed, lax enforcement and limited personal responsibility.

This is both a threat and an opportunity. At The Otsego County Chamber, our mission is to assist in developing a future that will make our children and grandchildren proud of what we have left them.

To do so, we must take personal responsibility to return basic logic to the role government plays in the lives of our families, employees and citizens.

It is our duty to educate our friends, neighbors and employees how the New York spending glut directly and indirectly affects their paychecks, their ability to advance their careers, the environment they will leave their heirs and our region's economic stability.

New York's financial crisis is not one of revenue, it is one of spending. The cost of government and education continues to outpace the economic growth of our businesses and citizens.

Until the spending binge is controlled, our economy will not be able to develop the economic opportunities to allow for personal income growth in this state.

New York tends to fund itself by adding small fees and taxes on a large variety of items that blur the overall tax bite. These back-door taxes only hide the real cost of government and its need for money.

By example: Look how multiple proposed fees would impact a family moving from Westchester to Otsego County.

What may have been a two-mile trip to the train now has become 50-mile round trip from a new home to the new job. Add to that, now one needs snow tires, maintenance costs on the car increases, and the resale value decreases.

Then, the average income in Westchester is not the same as Otsego, although the proposed fee is the same. It impacts our residents much more.

And lastly, a proposal to double the $5 fee on auto insurance policies to "pay for the state police" begs a different public-policy question, which is: Why are the state police not paid for out of the general fund as a broader public good?

The state can't be allowed to balance its spending glut by passing down to the cities, towns and school boards the programs for which it chooses to reduce or eliminate funding. If government wants to mandate a service, program or reporting function, then the mandating body must fund it.

New York has one of the highest costs, and the most mandated specific coverage, for health insurance. Yet, Albany wants to mandate more coverage or services to the small group and other markets for health insurance without funding to pay for it.

And, like the Budget Reconciliation Bill passed last month, Albany raised taxes on health insurance to balance the budget. Those costs will only be added to the premium cost for the subscriber and threaten the ability for employers to offer coverage for their employees.

Albany will continue to spend your pay raise and the money for our kids' employment opportunities unless each and every one of us tells lawmakers to stop.

The money that is taken by new taxes and fees is the same dollars that would have been invested into higher wages, better opportunities and more jobs.

Those extra fees and taxes that you, as a homeowner and resident, will be asked to pay will come out of your existing paycheck. Will you be in your employer's office asking for a raise to cover your increased living expenses?

Who wins if you don't speak up to your elected official? Increased government spending!

Your family, your neighbors and your employer need you to speak up, loudly, and demand that, like all of us, government live within its means and stop reaching into our back pockets.

There is nothing New York is facing that can't be resolved by government budgetary restraint and freedom for small businesses to create 250,000 new taxpayers.

Let's practice personal responsibility and logic, work with our leaders to reverse the state's policies that are driving out 250,000 residents a year, and create the new opportunities for our grandchildren. It is up to you. Will you join the discussion and speak up?

To write for "My turn," contact Daily Star Publisher Tanya Shalor at or 432-1000, ext. 214.

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