Dear Ms. Hochul:
The Libertarian Party of New York would like to extend to you its congratulations (or condolences) upon your swearing-in as New York State’s governor early this morning. We have full faith that you will do the right thing and work with the legislature to get to the bottom of the various scandals your predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, was embroiled in at the time of his departure: the executive overreach enabled by the legislature; the resulting lockdowns, economic ruin, and senseless deaths of tens of thousands of nursing home residents at his hands; the use of government resources in the writing of his personal memoir; and the myriad sexual harassment claims against him. These are important issues that must be debated with transparency and prosecuted in order to restore faith in the office which Mr. Cuomo has tarnished, and which you now occupy.
As a western New Yorker, we hope that you will differentiate yourself from Mr. Cuomo by breaking with his downstate masters and embracing more liberty-oriented sensibilities. The Libertarian Party of New York has a wish list we’d like you to consider.
Restore long-standing ballot access and petitioning thresholds for minor and independent political parties. In 2019, Governor Cuomo’s “Public Finance Reform Commission” tripled the thresholds for third parties to achieve automatic ballot access in statewide elections. After the commission was declared unconstitutional, and under cover of the pandemic, the governor and the legislature enacted those same provisions in Part ZZZ of the 2020 budget. Reversing these draconian measures will make it easier for third parties and their candidates to get on the ballot, giving voters a wider choice of candidates and restoring freedoms of speech and association.
Identify and eliminate Medicaid fraud and waste. The 2022 budget increased taxpayer-funded Medicaid spending by 20%, to $27.5 billion – a staggering 13% of the total budget. Total Medicaid spending for New York, including Federal subsidies and local spending, is expected to be nearly $80 billion. Supplying more taxpayer money to a broken system is not the answer. Reducing the amount of money the system demands, by tightening eligibility criteria and eliminating grift and misuse by providers and beneficiaries, is essential.
Repeal the SAFE Act. The SAFE Act made thousands of legal gun owners in New York State felons overnight and infringed upon one of our most important Constitutional rights. The Second Amendment is intended to allow us to defend all our rights from a tyrannical government. Ironically, the SAFE Act has actually made our communities less safe by stripping law-abiding citizens of their natural right to self-defense, and doing nothing to limit real criminals’ access to guns. Repeal the SAFE Act and let counties set their own gun control agendas.
Reject statewide mask and vaccine mandates. Individuals are solely responsible for making their own medical decisions. Government has no legitimate authority dictating terms of employment, commerce, and the movement of free people. Individuals must be left alone to assess their own risk and determine if masking and vaccinations are right for them. Similarly, private businesses must be allowed to set their own standards for who they serve and employ, masked or unmasked, vaccinated or unvaccinated. Taxpaying parents must also make their sentiments known regarding masking children in school, and school districts should listen and set policies accordingly.
Restore religious medical exemptions. A ban on faith-based medical exemptions, passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo was an indignity to religious liberty and New Yorkers of all faiths. The ban must be repealed and religious exemptions allowed once more.
Reduce personal income taxes. People are leaving New York State in droves for states with more favorable tax environments and employment opportunities. Lowering taxes and letting people keep more of their paychecks is just common sense. Individuals know best how to spend their money, and more efficiently than the government. People with more cash in their pockets will spend it locally and in ways that directly benefit their families and communities.
Reduce property taxes by expanding home rule and ending unfunded mandates. Passing laws and regulations at the state level without giving municipalities the choice or funding to implement them places the financial burden of compliance on the local taxpayer. We’d rather not see any of these unfunded mandates, but absent that, expanding localities’ ability to opt out of them is an excellent way to give cities, villages, and towns more control over their budgets.
Dissolve the State Department of Education and Board of Regents. New York spends the most per student in the nation – over $25,000 per year – despite declining school age enrollment and educational outcomes in the bottom quartile. The bloated state education bureaucracy, aid allocations, and one-size-fits-all approach are clearly not working. Dissolve the NYS Department of Education, remove unfunded state mandates, return curriculum control to localities, and allow the local communities and families to make decisions in the best interests of their children.
End payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) programs. Large businesses like Tesla and Amazon regularly squeeze municipalities for property tax breaks that unfairly increase tax and infrastructure burdens for local residents and disadvantage small businesses without political ties. Businesses that see an economic benefit in a particular location should voluntarily partner with the communities where they wish to reside for their mutual benefit.
Reduce the corporate income tax and relax the regulatory environment. New York is one of the most business-hostile states in the country. Unshackling businesses and allowing them to reinvest their capital into equipment and employees will encourage entrepreneurship and create jobs.
End occupational licensing. Current licensing schemes frequently have little to do with skill or safety. They are meant to raise revenue for the state and to protect political cronies from competition by imposing onerous fees and training requirements in certain industries. The costs and length of training requirements are frequently shouldered by working-class people who can afford it least. By eliminating, or relaxing, these licensing and training requirements, or by moving to a “train on the job” system administered by private guilds, barriers to employment and entrepreneurship will be eliminated, and great strides will be made in economic mobility, self-sufficiency, and personal liberty.
Repeal the Scaffold and Wicks Laws. The Scaffold Law, a holdover from the 19th century and favorite of the trial lawyer lobby, holds employers and property owners fully liable when an employee becomes injured due to a gravity-related fall, driving up insurance and litigation costs. The Wicks Law requires that government agencies in New York State directly hire four separate contractors for general construction, plumbing, electrical work, and HVAC, increasing bid overhead, complicating project management, and ensuring trade unions benefit off the public dime. Both these laws are unique to New York and unnecessarily increase the cost of construction projects. They should be abolished immediately.
Thanks for listening. Looking forward to the next sixteen months and a better New York.
Chair, Libertarian Party of New York