Offering hope to constituents enduring the developing recession but warning that tax hikes may lie ahead, City Councilman and Senator-elect Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said Monday, “These tough times don’t last forever — we get through them. We’re New Yorkers, we can get through anything. But we only get through these tough times by working together.”
Addabbo discussed his views on the state and city budgets at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center in Howard Beach. New York State is facing a $15 billion budget deficit and the city expects a $1.9 billion shortfall.
The councilman, who will be sworn into the 15th Senatorial District seat on Jan. 1, told his audience abut several new tax initiatives Gov. David Paterson has proposed to raise revenue for the state, including the governor’s plan to impose an “obesity tax” on non-diet soda.
Addabbo said he would rather close the budget gap through spending cuts than tax hikes. Among the other revenue raisers he discussed were new taxes proposed for plastic surgery and hotels.
Other ideas for increasing the state’s cash flow that Addabbo cited include reinstating the commuter tax — which requires non-city residents who work here to pay for municipal services and could bring in about $500 million a year — and removing the sales tax exemption on most clothing and shoes.
Acknowledging that lawmakers do not have all the answers, Addabbo urged those in attendance to contact him with their ideas on how additional revenue might be raised or how state or city spending or waste can be reduced.
But there are two high-priority areas that should be protected from, Addabbo said. “We can make the cuts that we have to make and still protect seniors and education.”
Health care and education comprise 80 percent of the state budget, but Medicaid and insurance fraud together cost the state a total of $7 billion, he noted. Overhauling Medi-caid in order to make it run more efficiently is one way to reduce spending in state health care costs, Addabbo said.
Revoking state tax breaks given to corporations that outsource jobs to other countries was another of Addabbo’s suggestions — one that garnered him applause from the audience.
The councilman gleaned gasps when he told audience members that more than 500 homes in Howard Beach are in the process of being foreclosed and that those foreclosures affect both the individual homeowner and the property value of the homes in the surrounding area.
To help homeowners in the foreclosure process, Addabbo said he will propose a one-year moratorium on foreclosures in the state come January: under his proposal homeowners will still have to pay lenders, but at a reduced rate on the mortgage.