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School Tax Reform


Dear Editor,

Finally, newspaper columnists are wising up to what TAX-PAC, for the last two decades, has been drumming, unsuccessfully, into the public consciousness, (Raymond J. Keating, Government Pay: Too much for Too Many, Newsday, 9/18/06).

Keating's column reports on the results of research conducted by the nonpartisan Empire Center for New York State Policy, which lays out the reasons why New York State public school taxes raise criminally every year, with disastrous effect on the quality of public education: state legislative violation of the state constitution at the unlawful expense of property owners, based on the following:

(1) Union-led government employees including, in particular, [the] public school teachers' union constitute one out of every eight workers in New York State contributing to re-election campaigns of state legislators, who therefore give them whatever they wish.

Property owners, failing to unite in their own interests, are the sacrificial lamb thrown to the public school teaching wolves: they are not an important voting constituent and pay the price for their gutlessness in failing to unite and assert the constitutional duty of the legislature to finance public education out of public funds.

(2) The main opposition to the state's assumption of its constitutional duty to finance public education from public funds are these very unionized government employees who fear that the state would raise income tax to pay for public education, and do not want to pay their fair share, preferring the stop of "school aid" (not mentioned in the state constitution) and the age discriminatory "STAR Exemption" bone thrown out to seniors to keep them quiet for a while. (Gutless, the seniors choose to flee the state, resulting in an increased burden on those property owners who remain.) Property owners are willing enough to be screwed by state legislators in order that these legislators may get the teachers' and other unionized workers votes.

(3) What's worse, all this takes place in the stark context of glaring income disparity between state and local government (including public school) employees, on the one hand, and private sector workers, on the other: 124% of the average private salary in Nassau County, 119% in Suffolk County, earned unionized state and local government workers.

(4) Public education is not the business of county government, and it is not for county government or the public to tell state legislators how to raise the necessary funds to carry out their constitutionally mandated job of financing public education. They do not consult their constituents before raising their own salaries or voting themselves "members' items" (used to bribe segments of voters and maintain their incumbency).

It was not county government or the public that told the legislators to dump on property owners. Even assuming that income tax will have to be raised to pay the total bill for public education, why should not the higher paid state and local government employees and public school teachers pay more than the lower paid private sector employees? Figure that one out.

State and local government employees provide only services. Private sector employees provide both goods and services. Something is seriously wrong in the economy when public school teachers complain that they are not paid well enough for what they do when what they do is qualitatively bad enough as if more pay means better, rather than worse, education of the children. Why should they work hard if they can get paid more for not doing their job well?

Yo, property owners and the private sector public! Read Keating's column or, better yet, get a copy of the report of the Empire Center for New York State Policy or read it online. And stop being suckers for the mantra of the public school constituency: "It's all for the children." You are being pauperized by the-sky's-the-limit school property taxes "all for the children." Jump on the bus and go to Albany instead of complaining.

DAVID CARNEY
October 03, 2006

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