A couple weeks ago, I attended the Manufacturers Association of Central New York breakfast where several of our state representatives from Binghamton to Watertown and Rochester to Albany were attending. Many were split up into different panels on different subjects to field questions from the business community for an hour. My main reason for going was to hear from other business people about their main concerns affecting their businesses and how our local and state government played a part with those concerns if any.
The top four main concerns from the manufacturing business community was the cost of:
1) Energy costs,
2) Workers Compensation,
3) mandates and regulations,
4) taxes and
5) a diminishing qualified labor pool to draw from.
Our panel of senators and assemblymen gave typical answers of working hard for positive changes but things move slowly in Albany. The comment made next to me was that these are the same issues being talked about a decade ago. Business executives have come and gone but the issues and representatives remain the same. Nothing was mentioned about increased competition in the areas of (1) & (4) that would help. The politicians boasted about the last budget passed holding the line on taxes and passing the 2% Property Tax Cap. Then, Senator Valesky said although no relief for unfunded mandates was passed with the 2% property tax cap cutting the counties, towns and schools off at the knees financially, he pointed the finger at them saying this could be good believing they are too bloated needing to be trimmed down, yet he’s unable to see the three fingers pointing right back at him and Albany. Some of us could not belief the hypocrisy we were listening to.
So much money has to be taxed locally to feed the spending binge of Albany due to mandates that take up to 85% or more of the county budget. (i.e. – Medicaid, pensions, health ins). Our county and town representatives are then at the mercy of begging Albany or Senator Valesky & Assemblyman Magee (who never showed up for the breakfast though endorsed by MACNY the last election) for some of that money back to fund basic services like our fire & police depts., maintain our roads & bridges and schools.
Taking Senator Valesky’s exhortation to heart, I decided to take a closer look at these bloated county and town bureaucracies and budgets he was referring too.
Property taxes only reminds us of who really owns our home and land. So I started with the county land auction recently on September 24 for properties seized from those having not paid their property taxes and the revenue received vs. expenses paid. Here Assemblyman Magee did show up…….as the auctioneer. This raised a red flag with me thinking how did he end up getting this job as a public official with the county beholden to him to get funding from Albany for basic services, was he being compensated and how much. It appeared the auctioneer job had not been put out for bid for over a decade and no contract was in place with the county for at least a decade also and maybe more. He was paid over $27,000 for 3 hours of work at the auction. Sweet! I know for a fact that if this was put out for bid to other auctioneers, many would have done it for a flat rate of $500-$1000 saving the taxpayers of Madison County $26,000 in property taxes. Multiply this times 10 for the past decade at least and that’s a good chuck of change that could have lowered our property taxes currently the highest in the nation.
The next question is who at the county level was making the decision on this sweet gig for Assemblyman Magee at the expense of the taxpayers? To date, I’ve yet to get to the bottom of that other than the Farm and Land Agency was responsible for this arrangement. The agency says this was just an administrative oversight. For 10 or more years? Every time there was a county land sale? Who there at the agency is in charge and who at the board of supervisors had oversight of the agency? Who knew what and when? What else is being overlooked at the county level if this has gone on 10 or more years with no contract and excessive pay for services rendered? Do I dare ask if this was actually an oversight to begin with having lasted over 10 years? The county’s policy modeled after the state requires bidding for the acquisition of products, but not services. Where is the logic in that policy? Those who deal in the private sector of business will bid out products and services. What other services are not being put out to bid that could be saving the taxpayers thousands of dollars?
Could Senator Valesky’s earlier comments have some validity? How could our long term public servant Assemblyman Magee fleece the taxpayers of Madison County, regarding this matter, for over a decade? Are there other matters we need to look for? In other county land auctions, does he fleece the taxpayers of Otsego County too that’s part of the NYS 111th Assembly District? Does he do this in any other county outside his district? I am all for the free market enterprise where you should be able to charge whatever the market will bare, but once again, the free market was not allowed to operate by not putting this job out for bid. This isn’t just a free market or administrative efficiency issue though. There’s a core problem government cannot resolve.
As the lines of right and wrong are blurred or ignored entirely slowly chipping away at values, people clamor for more laws written on the books, thinking it will curb behavior vs. embracing laws written on all our hearts nurtured through a relationship with our Creator.
The author of Courageous Leadership writes:
“For eight years during the decade of the nineties I went to Washington, D.C., every month to meet in the foremost centers of power with some of the highest elected officials in our country. What I discovered was not how powerful these people are, but how limited their power really is. All they can actually do is rearrange the yard markers on the playing field of life.” (For themselves too) “They can’t change a human heart. They can’t heal a human soul. They can’t turn hatred into love. They can’t bring about repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace. They can’t get to the core problem…”
Government is rarely the answer because the law cannot change a person’s heart. Its power is limited by Divine Providence. Its purpose was to limit man’s vices but government is run by man himself. When accountability in government breaks down, we see what happens above. Rev. Jason McGuire of NYCF writes, “Even on its best day, at its greatest moments of achievement, human government leaves us longing for a greater one. Our broken government, which cannot get to the core problem, drives us to our need for the One who can.”
Merry Christmas to All,