While many people are struggling with rapidly increasing fuel and food prices, it would appear that government is swimming in cash.
Witness this week’s report from the state comptroller that state government ended September with a $20 billion surplus, compared to the $9 billion surplus reported at this time in 2019, the base (pre-pandemic) year. And it’s not like any belts were tightened in Albany, rather it was the revenue side that surged.
In reporting these rather startling figures, state comptroller Tom DiNapoli credited higher taxes on the rich for producing record revenue. That’s part of the picture, but traditionally it has been the broad middle class that produces revenue.
In Ulster County, the 2022 guns and butter budget county executive Pat Ryan presented last month increases spending by some $18 million while holding the property tax level. Ryan taps a projected 19 percent in sales tax to balance his budget.
And none of this includes federal stimulus money. Magic.
Over in Dutchess, county executive Marc Molinaro did Ryan way, way better in projecting a 10 percent decrease in property tax. Could it be that Molinaro is running for congress next year?
Molinaro might be careful with this ploy as unbelievable tax reductions can arouse suspicions of chicanery among taxpayers.
In 1979 with sales tax revenues pouring over the transoms, Democrats figured out that they could eliminate the property tax entirely and thus hold on to the legislature they had captured two years previous for the only time in the 20th century. Republicans responded with a “WTF!” campaign and reclaimed the legislature by a wide margin.
Molinaro may have a winning message with tax abatement, but first he has to get people to believe it.
In Kingston, Mayor Steve Noble may be enjoying the best years of his seven-year tenure. Noble’s budget, like Ryan’s, features flat taxes and a host of new hires.
I think the bottom line here is that we need to look at more than tax rates. Are these budgets and this level of spending sustainable over the long haul? By the time we get that answer, the people who produced them will be long gone.
BRIDGING THE GAP – With appropriate fanfare, the state department of transportation formally announced the start of reconstruction of the 102-year-old bridge over the Rondout Creek in downtown Kingston.
On the drawing board for what seems like most of this decade, officials last week formally presented a $46 million budget for what will be a two-year project. The last estimate, albeit before extensive engineering studies, was in the $35 million range. Given the propensity for public works projects to exceed budget, I’d place the over/under at $60 million.
There has been grousing in some quarters about DOT rejecting plans to convert the narrow, two-lane bridge into a walking/biking connection between Port Ewen and Kingston.
Good. When the state spends upwards of $50 million on a thoroughfare, it ought to serve everyone. An improvement on the pedestrian crossings already in place should suffice.
IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR – It seems we have history in the making in the Lloyd (with a bit of Marlboro) legislative District-10 where Republican Gina Hansut faces Democrat Gary Pregno in what has been a Republican seat for decades.
Hansut is the daughter of former legislators Dan and Elizabeth Alfonso and the widow of former town supervisor Paul Hansut. Hansut, who died earlier this year, was also a county legislator from Lloyd, serving three terms before deciding to run for town office.
Should Gina Hansut prevail, she will be the fourth member of her family to serve in the county legislature. As such, the Alfonso/Hansut clan would surpass the family record set in recent years by the three Paretes John (from Olive) and sons Robert and Richard (Marbletown/Hurley).
SIGNS OF LIFE – This just in: Ulster Republicans apparently have a pulse. Sending only long-term county clerk Nina Postupack to the lists this year, the once Grand Old Party will host a fundraiser at Hillside Restaurant in Kingston Tuesday night. Cash bar will begin at 6:30 followed by dinner.
Republicans passed on family court judge, comptroller and three state supreme court judges this year.
Featured speakers will be Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro and seldom seen state senator Mike Martucci (New Paltz, Gardiner, Shawangunk, Wawarsing and Rosendale). Molinaro is running for congress but he can probably use the speech he gave three years ago when he ran for governor.
Democrats hosted state attorney general Letitia James to a rousing reception at their annual dinner a few weeks ago.