The recent complaints about costs and taxation published here are intellectually dishonest. Most of it is empty bravado. It’s perfectly legitimate to complain about taxation, but unless you spell out specific remedies, spare us. The complainers do not dare to, because it will obliterate the political franchises that they themselves benefit from. Looking for suggestions? Here’s a few.
This election season, many are beginning to question the value of down ballot races. This is something that should be explored. In Nassau, for example, we’re still electing town clerks and tax collectors. In today’s data environment, this is the equivalent of voting for a fire hydrant. Both positions should be made by appointment. Some may point out this could lead to more patronage hires, but the “elected” officials are patronage hires to begin with. They’re already handpicked for you, not by you.
Voting for local judges is something that has always made me wonder. I’m not sure if this is wise politically or practically for local courts, but in any case, I don’t think any voter could tell what differentiates one judge from another. There are also, as per Nassau political custom, some sketchy choices as to who gets to be made a judge. One of them, a former family court judge, no less, wanted to open up an adult bar after he retired. I would suggest taking the politics out of this and have local judges appointed by a neutral commission of legal experts who could weigh a candidate’s professionalism and knowledge.
These small measures should save some money locally, but truly meaningful savings would come from an option that keeps getting brought up and then buried: We need to move to a unicameral state legislature. For anyone who follows state politics closely, and too few of you do, the Legislature is something of a joke. Problems could be alleviated by concentrating more power in fewer hands, where each representative has some genuine political heft behind them, as opposed to now, where there are so many legislators and overlap that local power is more diffused, so the leadership can easily control them.
As it is, the state Senate has more voting discipline than the Soviet Duma, and outcomes are quite predictable. Some of the legislation is hilarious, too. There are 150 members of the Assembly and 63 senators, who are all forced to run for office or re-election every two years. That’s too many and too often. As with expansion in sports franchises, all you get are more “bums” on the teams. I would combine both Houses for a total of 100 state representatives with four-year terms. No more duplicative committees, fewer sycophants. And one more thing: Pay them well. No more side gigs or reserved desks at local law offices.
Think this will ever happen? Of course not. That cow will give them free milk forever.
Another suggestion: bring the 2 percent school spending cap down to zero for the next five years. Apparently, the most talented educational force in the nation has a problem understanding the concept of “compounding.” The 2 percent is arbitrary, and whether you make the cap 4 percent or 40 percent, the schools will amp up the budgets to meet the cap. This is because your school boards, as opposed to providing oversight of the process, are made captive by it. That’s how my local district bonded $150,000 for theater curtains, for example.
Upset about Medicaid costs? Your property taxes are funding the lion’s share of health insurance costs for thousands of already well or overcompensated civil employees, many of them patronage hires. So instead of coming after the health care of the poor, why not make six-figure gym teachers pay a fair share? You would see a noticeable drop in both your school and county tax. Look at the cost breakdown on your school budgets: The benefits are about the same cost as the salaries.
Naturally, none of this will happen. The interests that protect this iron circle of perpetual looting will never let it, and as you well know, they have all the power. You have none. Your elected officials are completely co-opted lap dogs and subservient only to them.
Oh, please remember to vote. It’s your civic duty, darling.