By Sen. Jim Tedisco
As we close each year and begin a new one, I often watch one of my favorite films, the movie classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The film’s main character, George Bailey, played by the great Jimmy Stewart, gets to see what the world would be like if he never lived.
Thanks to guidance from his guardian angel, Clarence, Bailey comes to realize that if he never was born, his hometown of Bedford Falls would have been a much different and much darker place to live.
New York state, and in particular, Upstate New York, is about to have its “George Bailey moment” to see what our world will look like in a state government that has a singular voice, party, and region controlling our representative democracy. And it isn’t going to be pretty.
A Republican majority in the state Senate has been the last alternative voice for Upstate to act as a check on our chief executive and his band of merry progressives in the state Assembly.
That changed on Election Day, when our 32-31 one-seat Republican majority became a 23-40 downstate-driven Democratic majority. Now all levels of government in our state, the governor, attorney general, comptroller, Assembly and now Senate are firmly controlled by one party and one voice from predominantly one region of the state. One party rule emanating from one region is bad for any level of representative democracy.
Without any “Clarence” as a guardian angel for our region of the state, our economy and quality of life could be destined to make us “DEAD-ford Falls” and certainly not the movie’s good outcome for Bedford Falls.
Here’s what Upstate is likely to be in for:
• Increased job-killing taxes. This past year, my Senate Republican majority colleagues and I helped stop a $1 billion tax hike from being included in the state budget. Now that we are not in the majority, it will be a challenge to be that safety valve to prevent taxes in New York, which are among the highest in the nation, from skyrocketing.
• Single-payer government-run healthcare. Taxpayer-funded, so-called single-payer healthcare would put state government in charge of all aspects of an individual’s health care and would raise taxes by $140 billion according to the non-partisan Rand Report. This legislation, which has passed the Assembly and has the support of the new majority in the Senate would bankrupt the state of New York. Vermont tried single-payer for one year and repealed it because it blew major holes in their budget.
• End of the tax cap as we know it. The highly successful property tax cap which has saved taxpayers $344.5 million in the 49th Senate District and $23 billion across the state by keeping a lid on out of control property taxes is set to expire next year and there is talk by the new majority of watering it down or even eliminating it. That’s bad news for a state that has some of the highest taxes in the nation and had an outward migration of 186,000 people just last year and one million over the past decade.
More job-killing regulations and laws like the governor’s scheduling plan that would force weather-dependent businesses, such as car washes and roofers, as well as others, to schedule staff two weeks in advance; and the elimination of tipped wages which is strongly opposed by wait staff and restaurants and taverns in Saratoga and across the Capital Region.
• Providing driver’s licenses, free college tuition and voting rights to those here illegally. We should have a path to citizenship and we need immigration reform at the federal level but no American citizen in my district expects to break the law and be rewarded for it. Giving these benefits to those here illegally sends the wrong message to honest, law-abiding citizens and those who are trying to do the right thing and have been in line for some time to become American citizens.
What do we do moving forward? It’s not going to be easy, but it’s critical that Upstate lawmakers from both sides of the aisle work together in a non-partisan, bi-partisan fashion as a coalition to stand up for New York and that includes Upstate’s needs and concerns to protect our quality of life and economy. Now, more than ever, Upstate taxpayers are counting on their representatives to be their guardian angels to help protect what should be their wonderful lives.