By Darius Shahinfar
Times Union (Albany, N.Y.), Jan. 28, 2015
As city treasurer in Albany, I am constantly reminded by our taxpayers that our property taxes need to be cut.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan is doing her part by budgeting responsibly, improving operations and actually cutting taxes.
But taxpayers need a lot more help. Legislative hearings have been held across the state regarding the New York Health Care Act, a variation of the federal “Medicare for All” bill (HR 676), which would bring Medicare-style, single-payer health care funding to the state. There is no stronger measure New York could take to cut our property taxes than to pass this bill into law. Hidden health care costs are present in every product, good or service in our economy. For example, health care adds an estimated $2,000 to $4,000 to the price of every car built in the United States.
For taxpayers, we have an enormous hidden health care “tax” in our property taxes. And the truth is this hidden tax is bleeding property taxpayers dry. In Albany, 96 percent of our tax bills are composed of three, separate bills from the city, the county and the school district. Astonishingly, health care costs are nearly half of our city tax bill, a quarter of our school district’s tax bill and more than the entire amount in a county tax bill.
This means that Albany homeowners are paying 38 percent of our combined property tax bills on health care costs. For the owner of a $150,000 home, this is a hidden health care tax of $2,100 within the property tax bills.
Using the models of the pending state and federal legislation, and accounting for local variables, it is my estimate that city taxpayers would conservatively save 28 percent of their entire tax bills in property taxes with a single-payer system. That same homeowner of a $150,000 home would save about $1,600 per year.
And, just to be clear, every taxpayer in every municipality in New York would see similar, massive savings. In fact, our wealthier suburbs would receive the greatest savings, because the more valuable the taxpayer’s property, the more his or her taxes are cut. Additionally, businesses that provide health care would also see dramatic cost savings, leading to opportunities for lower prices and greater profits.
Furthermore, savings for Albany city taxpayers would be two to three times larger if the state repaired revenue deficits caused by: The outdated AIM formula that provides one-half to one-sixth the per capita aid to Albany that it provides to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers and Utica; the outdated School Aid formulas; and the 60 percent of our entire property value that is tax-exempt, 33 percent of which is owned by the state.
No matter where you live in New York, if you want to see dramatically lower property taxes, tell our state and federal representatives to pass single-payer health care into law. Now.
The author is Albany city treasurer. He recently testified at state hearings in support of the New York Health Care Act.