Northern New York Newspapers
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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Impractically popular


For a state with a budget exceeding $135 billion, a requested expense of about $2 million seems like a drop in the bucket.

But $2 million just doesn’t appear out of thin air. It’s revenue that must have a source, and the source must be able to allocate this amount of money for this specific purpose.

This is the question raised with New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s proposed legislation to offer a property tax exemption to active-duty military personnel. Mr. Schneiderman unveiled his Tax Relief for Active Military Service last week to provide current service members with a similar program of property tax relief now available to veterans through municipalities.

If enacted into law, the TRAMS Act would offer active-duty military personnel or their spouses a property tax exemption of 10 percent of the assessed value of a home. This amount would be capped at $10,000. Active-duty service members who have served in a combat zone would be eligible for an additional exemption of 10 percent of the assessed value of a home, capped at $8,000.

“Soldiers and their families make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of all Americans,” Mr. Schneiderman was quoted as saying in a news release. “Just as they fight for us, New York State can support these brave men and women by easing the burdens of homeownership.”

According to the news release from Mr. Schneiderman’s office, about 32 percent of the nearly 25,000 active-duty service personnel in New York own homes, compared to 54 percent of all New Yorkers.

It would be nice to assist members of the military in their quest to buy property. But the money they’d save on property taxes is unlikely to lure many of them into homeownership. The real issue is whether they can afford the down payment and mortgage of a home, not a modest reduction in their property taxes.

Tax relief, by the way, can only be offered by entities collecting the revenue. If municipalities could find a way of offering the kind of property tax relief they do with military veterans, that would one thing.

But this program would be financed by state revenue coming from other sources. In case Mr. Schneiderman hasn’t noticed, New York isn’t exactly in a position to pay for new spending proposals.

The state Office of Mental Health announced that it’s going to move inpatient mental health services from the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg to sites in Syracuse and Utica. It’s obvious that it can no longer afford to provide these vital programs to people living north of Thruway communities.

In addition, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo talked voters into amending the state Constitution and allow up to seven non-Indian casinos. He touted this as a way to boost job growth, increase revenue for education and provide property tax relief. Translation: The state needs more cash.

There are funding priorities that New York State cannot meet. So why is one agency coming up with new ways for the legislature to spend money it doesn’t have?

The state is having problems funding current programs, so creating news ones is not at all practical. State legislators must make the best use of the financial resources they have, not pander to the masses for the sake of popularity.

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