It is a fact of life that as an elected official, no matter how hard I try, I can’t make everyone happy. It’s simply a reflection of how we each view things differently and, frankly, that’s not a bad thing. What’s difficult is when we agree on where we should be heading, but can’t agree on how best to get there.
That happened to me recently when speaking to a constituent. I realized that sometimes enthusiasm for change can lead to disappointment when it takes longer than expected. I know the pulse of people I serve is best taken by listening to them, so in light of this I thought readers of this column may have similar questions.
This came about because it’s a re-election year for me and to kick off my campaign I passed out some literature that listed a few of what I feel to be our state’s major accomplishments the last 2 years. I mentioned my work on:
- the 2 percent property tax cap
- the middle-class income tax cut that reduced the rate to the lowest its’ been in 58 years
- the repeal of the MTA payroll tax that was killing our small businesses and nonprofits
- and last but not least, our consecutive, balanced budgets that reduced spending and closed $13 billion in deficits with no new taxes or fees.
Sounds great, right? Well, not to everyone. While I expect to defend my efforts to those who embrace a tax-and-spend mentality, I recently found myself justifying them to the very people who agree with my more disciplined fiscal approach. They said property taxes should be cut, not capped; income tax should be eliminated, not lowered; the MTA tax should be completely repealed and budget deficits should have never existed to begin with.
Talk about taking the wind out of your sails. We know all too well that more has to be done and we’re going to do it, but realistically we first had to put the brakes on the runaway train. It wasn’t easy. We had to overcome those interests that clung to the status quo and refused to budge. We worked in extraordinary bi-partisan fashion with our governor and members of the Assembly to get New York back on the road to financial health. Truth is, we can’t undo years of state mismanagement overnight, nor can I explain why past governors and legislatures didn’t try sooner. I do know that we were in dire straits and that job one for the new Senate was getting spending and taxes under control. We did that and much more.
It was just 2 short years ago, before I was elected, that more than $14 billion in tax increases were imposed on everyday New Yorkers. A mind-boggling 200 new taxes and fees were invented in 2010 alone – right down to taxing the slicing of a bagel (honestly). That was the type of disconnect there was in Albany. Few had the courage to make tough choices and those that did were outnumbered.
We changed that but New York is not a speed boat that can switch direction on a dime. The State is more like a super tanker and it takes lots of strategy and cooperation to turn her around. Our budget and our economy are larger than those of most countries so patient dedication to our cause, regardless of obstacles, is the key to our success. While I obviously subscribe to an approach centered on fiscal restraint and accountability, I don’t understand the “all or nothing” approach that allows people to simply throw up their hands and walk away from our challenges. As much as I would love to see immediate results, our work more often than not is directed at longer term solutions – building a better future. Thanks to the efforts of many over these past 2 years, New York is doing precisely that.
I could quote every idiom in the book: learn to walk before you can run, Rome wasn’t built in a day, slow and steady wins the race – but that doesn’t mean I can get everyone to appreciate just how accurately they apply to New York. The bottom line is we are making real and measurable progress. Acknowledging our common-sense victories is how we keep the positive momentum going.
Sen. Jack Martins is the representative of New York's Seventh Senatorial District. He was elected to the State Senate in 2010 as a Republican from Mineola.