Missing STAR Checks Show Lapse In Responsibility

It should go without saying that state Sen. Catharine Young’s legislation to require the state Department of Taxation and Finance to postmark all STAR Personal Income Tax credit checks by Sept. 15 should be approved by the state Assembly and sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

It should also go without saying that it is ridiculous that such legislation is needed.

As part of last year’s state budget, the current STAR program changed for homeowners who purchased their primary residence after the 2015 STAR application deadline. Under the new rules, direct payments to school districts on behalf of eligible homeowners have been phased out and the STAR exemption has been converted into a refundable property tax credit for new homeowners. One would think state bureaucrats would have realized the checks needed to be sent in time for school taxes to be paid, but at least 100 of Young’s constituents didn’t receive their checks in time — defeating the entire purpose of the STAR program.

State Taxation and Finance department officials blame the delays on the lack of time to implement changes approved by the Legislature last year and the fact that assessing systems across the state aren’t standardized, creating more work for officials at the state level. The department’s reasons make some sense, but its actions do not. At some point it was the department’s duty to alert legislators and the public that there was a problem and to proactively alert taxpayers that checks would be delayed or devise a solution that got the checks out earlier while a permanent system was put in place. It is galling to taxpayers that the department simply threw up its hands and left taxpayers holding the bag.

Young’s legislation may fix the issue with late STAR program checks, but it won’t fix the problem of a state government that too often is not response to taxpayers.