New York's nickname has been "The Empire State," but in light of the recent state budget passed and the struggles with the MTA, it may as well be called, "The Backwards State."

When times are tough with the nation mired in a recession, with people losing their jobs and taking pay cuts, the citizens need their state leaders in Albany to think outside the box and come up with a budget that does not further hurt residents. So what do the leaders come up with? More taxes and fees.

At a time when residents may be hurting financially, state lawmakers in Albany have decided to take more money to close a budget deficit. Who is going to close the deficits that exist in people's personal lives? In a time when people need relief the most, state lawmakers found a way to make their situations worse.

It is backwards thinking to take more money away from the public when what we need to help the economy is for people to spend money. We need consumers to support our local businesses. The true purpose of a tax cut or an economic stimulus is to give people some relief whereby they can use additional money to spend on goods and services. Businesses are helped and jobs are created. Instead, the state has given people less money to spend.

Senator Craig Johnson, who voted for the state budget, said that people would spend money. Perhaps Senator Johnson is out of touch with those who have had to endure layoffs, pay cuts or pay freezes. After all, some of Senator Johnson's staff members received raises of over 50 percent after the Democrats became the Senate Majority leaders in January.

Senator Johnson says his staff works extremely hard. That may be so, but New Yorkers have been asked to do their share during difficult times. On Long Island, it seems people do more than their share.

Then, there's the case of the backwards agency that is the MTA. With the country in the midst of an energy crisis whereby we continue to buy oil from foreign countries to satisfy what has been called an addiction to oil, it makes sense that we should encourage mass transportation. However, the MTA has managed to discourage mass transportation with its enormous fare increases to help fill a budget deficit created by excessive spending. For a weekend trip from Mineola to Penn Station, it will cost $15.50 for a round trip ticket. For a family of four to go to New York City on the weekend, that's $62 and that's just for transportation to Penn Station.

You have to wonder where the MTA is spending the money. Recently, we received an eight-page, glossy brochure from the MTA on the 70th birthday of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. This is an agency that some lawmakers are considering bailing out with a payroll tax.

While there is talk these days, the ones most in need of a bailout are the residents, but nobody seems to be listening.

- Joe Rizza

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