The state budget approved by the Democratic-dominated state legislature over the weekend contains several items that are, in effect, taxes on hardworking New Yorkers, Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis charged.
“More and more New Yorkers are leaving the state and this budget is an example of why,” Malliotakis told this newspaper a few days before the state’s $175 billion spending package was finalized in Albany.
Malliotakis, who represents parts of Bay Ridge and Staten Island, said that ever since she was first elected to the state Assembly in 2010, she has always kept a critical eye out for government waste and unnecessary financial burdens on taxpayers.
She is the only Republican woman in New York City’s state legislative delegation.
New Yorkers “are tired of being nickeled and dimed by government,” said Malliotakis, who worked as a liaison to George Pataki when he was governor and then as a public affairs manager for Con Edison prior to running for public office.
As an example of unfair taxation, Malliotakis pointed to the legislature’s vote to ban single-use plastic bags, calling the bill “an extra burden on the middle class.”
As part of the budget package, the legislature voted to ban the type of bags used by supermarkets for groceries, starting in March, 2020. The bill contains a provision allowing municipalities to charge 5 cents each for paper bags. Malliotakis voted against it.
Proponents said the bill is necessary because plastic bags harm the environment. Malliotakis said she understands the environmental concerns and agrees that something should be done. But the 5-cent fee doesn’t sit well with her. “The fee is a tax just like the bottle deposit is a tax,” she said.
New York charges an additional five cents on bottles and cans of carbonated soft drinks, beer and water. The money is redeemable when the bottle or can is returned to the store. But, many New Yorkers don’t bother to go back to their supermarket or local grocery store with their bottles after drinking a soda.
The paper bag fee amounts to “punishing people who are law-abiding citizens,” Malliotakis said.
Congestion pricing is another example, according to Malliotakis, who called it “nothing more than a cash grab.”
The congestion pricing plan involves charging drivers a toll for entering Manhattan south of 60th Street. The new tolls would start in 2021. Details on how much drivers will have to pay are yet to be worked out.
The state expects to raise $1 billion from congestion pricing, money which will go toward repairing and upgrading the city’s deteriorating transit system, officials said.
New York will become the first city in the U.S. to have congestion pricing.
Malliotakis said constituents she has spoken to are skeptical that the money will really go toward improving subways and buses. “People are skeptical of the MTA. Where is the money going?” she asked.
She also voted against the plan because there was no mention in the legislation of reducing tolls on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
Instead of introducing new tolls, taxes and fees, the state should be looking more closely at how money is being spent and working harder to stop waste and fraud, Malliotakis said.