The pro-Hochul message is going out to millions of New Yorkers, landing in their mailboxes right before the Democratic primary next week. No, this isn’t a fancy color campaign flyer paid for from her considerable war chest touting our endorsement, but a plain, 8.5-inch by 3.5-inch document from the state Tax Department.
It begins with this merry greeting: “Gov. Hochul and the New York State Legislature are providing you this Homeowner Tax Rebate check that you can use to help pay your property taxes.” A check for a couple hundred bucks is enclosed.
While tax rebates are fine — we wanted one for people improperly forced to pay state income taxes on unemployment compensation collected during the COVID year of 2020 — there are three things wrong with how this one was done.
First, the name. While Hochul aides say that putting her name on the enclosure was the handiwork of nonpolitical career underlings and point out that Andrew Cuomo’s name was on a check eight years ago (but not four years ago), it should not have happened. It’s not the governor’s money, it’s the people’s money. Indeed, if politicians’ names are on rebates, they should also appear on tax bills and audits.
Second, the timing. Sending it out right before the primary is unseemly and unfair. Better to have done it right after the June voting, months before the November election.
Third, the mailing. Why have the state incur printing and postal expenses as well as the inconvenience of homeowners having to make sure they don’t lose or get a coffee stain on the valuable little piece of paper? The Tax Department is always encouraging direct deposit for income tax refunds; more than 95% of refunds are electronic. Why can’t they do the same with this rebate, and the annual school-tax STAR benefits?
Since electronic transfers are faster and safer and cheaper, future payments from the government to the governed should be zapped, not mailed. Of course, it’s harder to put in timely promotional plugs that way.