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February 4, 2016

February 3, 2016

Taxes the killer—but which taxes?

Let’s give Gov. Cuomo credit for “getting it (at least partly) right” when he said in his State of the State Address that the property tax is the killer in this state. During the past two generations, the overwhelming growth in taxes and government employment has been at the local level—governments that are supported mainly by property taxes. Between 1955 and 2010, the U.S. population grew from 165 million to 309 million, an increase of 87%. Yet, during those same years employment in our nation’s local governments grew from 3.9 million to 12.2 million, an increase of 212%. Total Federal Government civilian employment grew from 2.4 million in 1955 to 2.8 million in 2010, an increase of only 17%.

Tax revenues show the same trend. In 1955, all Federal tax revenues equaled 17.3% of the nation’s Gross National Product. In 2010, they had dropped to 14.9%. In 1955, local government revenues made up 4.3% of the GNP. By 2010, local government revenues had grown to 7.4% of GNP. The myth of the bloated federal government is just that—a myth. It’s America’s local governments that have ballooned over the past two generations.

Admittedly, the figures cited here are for the entire nation. But I doubt that Sullivan County’s story is much different. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s data reveal just how severe our county’s taxes are. Measured by the “ability to pay,” (comparing the median county property tax bill to the median county household income), our county’s local taxes rank among the highest 1% nationwide. Ouch!

But we don’t want to let the governor totally off the hook. The Tax Foundation finds New York State taxes rank sixth highest of the 50 states in state revenue per capita, totaling $8,423 annually for each one of us.

Ken Hilton
Jeffersonville, NY

[The letter below was sent to Town of Highland Supervisor Jeff Haas and the Highland Town Board.]

The compressor station: A constitutional issue?

While I am convinced there are serious questions to be answered about the compressor station proposed for our Town by the Millennium Pipeline Company, including health outcomes that should be assessed, I am also concerned about an aspect of the issue that no one seems to be addressing. I believe the Town Board should oppose this project on constitutional grounds.