As lawmakers engage in the budget-making process, a flurry of policies and proposals are unveiled and considered. The idea of universal pre-kindergarten in New York state is not a new one, but it has gained increased attention since the governor defined it as priority in his budget address, and the mayor of New York City placed it on top of his political agenda. But every new public program comes with a price tag.
Recently, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver suggested that if school districts in upstate New York want universal pre-kindergarten, they can raise property taxes to fund it. This is the exact kind of mentality that should outrage hardworking New Yorkers, especially those in Upstate.
Our families and businesses are already burdened with the highest property taxes in the nation — thanks almost entirely to the runaway spending attached to the liberal political agenda. For years, Democrats have piled on unfunded mandates, onerous regulations, and costly entitlement programs that have driven up taxes.
Universal pre-k is a laudable goal. Like any worthwhile public program, we should take appropriate, thoughtful, and fiscally responsible steps to consider its implementation and what will be required to make it a reality — including the cost. In the pre-k discussion, two points should also be remembered:
- New York state does not yet have universal kindergarten; and
- Albany implemented dramatic educational cuts in 2011 — and therefore should place as great a priority on reducing the Gap Elimination Adjustment.
We need thorough details and thoughtful discussions for a proposal as big as universal pre-k. But a comprehensive approach is rarely what happens within the Assembly Democratic Conference. As Speaker Silver showed once again, when a proposal arises, the immediate Democratic solution is to “raise taxes.”
We need to do everything in our power to achieve just the opposite. As the only state legislative leader from the upstate region, I am proud to have sponsored legislation that lowers taxes permanently, ends the practice of unfunded state mandates, and reforms government to put more money into the pockets of taxpayers.
Instead of continuing the costly progressive approach of “Shoot, Ready, Aim,” we need to implement programs the right way at the right time and for the right price. Future generations of New Yorkers rely on a common-sense legislative process that will get our state out of the basement for taxes, business, and job creation.
The budget process always provides a lesson — not only in dollars and cents, but in political priorities. We have seen the tax-and-spend priority of a downstate agenda and a New York City lawmaker that is severely out-of-touch with the issues upstate New Yorkers face. And, as the pre-k plan unfolds, we will learn even more.
Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C–Canandaigua) is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 131st Assembly District, which encompasses all of Ontario County and parts of Seneca County. Contact him at email@example.com