In the latest television commercial of the 24th Congressional District campaign, Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko is accusing Democratic challenger Dana Balter of failing to pay her taxes while living in Florida five years ago.
The claim stems from a tax lien issued in January 2013 to Balter, D-Syracuse, for a company, Dana Balter Designs, she launched while living in Florida. The lien was for $1,832.42 in unpaid sales and use taxes. With fees, interest and penalties, she owed $2,176.30, according to the document.
Florida records indicate Balter paid the sales and use taxes in March 2013, two months after the lien was issued.
Katko's ad mischaracterizes the lien as a "sheriff's warrant." While the lien was directed to "the clerks of the circuit courts and the sheriffs of the state of Florida," it was issued by Florida Department of Revenue. The Florida Department of Revenue also issued the document revealing that Balter satisfied the tax lien.
The 30-second commercial, which begins airing Thursday on Syracuse-area broadcast and cable stations, addresses two themes raised by Katko throughout the campaign: Balter's support of Medicare-for-all and her status as a visiting assistant teaching professor at Syracuse University.
"Visiting Professor Dana Balter," the ad's narrator says. "Didn't pay her taxes in Florida. Wants to raise our taxes here."
Joe Farrell, Balter's campaign manager, responded to the ad by labeling Katko a "career politician" and a "hypocrite." Balter, he said, launched a small business selling refurbished antique furniture.
Farrell noted that Balter underpaid the Florida sales and use taxes by $47.29. When she learned she owed more in taxes, she "paid them immediately and in full," he said.
He also referenced a past criticism levied against Katko — that he failed to pay his property taxes on time. The Citizen reported in 2014 that Katko paid his property tax bills after the Jan. 31 due date every year from 2003 through 2014. The delayed payments continued in 2015 and 2016, when Katko was in his first term as a congressman.
In Onondaga County, property tax payments are due Jan. 31. However, there is a grace period allowing homeowners to pay their taxes after that date. A modest penalty is added on to the bills if it's paid after Jan. 31.
"John and Robin Katko pay their taxes according to the rules and without penalty," said Erin O'Connor, Katko's campaign spokesperson. "Dana Balter dishonestly tells us she's lived in Syracuse since 2003, but just five years ago she received a warrant for not paying her taxes while living a Naples, Florida mansion. Dana Balter is running on a radical platform to increase taxes on all CNY families, but doesn't pay her own. Unlike her friends in Naples, Florida, families in our community just can't afford her agenda."
Tax policy has been a major issue in the 24th district race. Balter has criticized Katko for his vote supporting a tax reform measure in 2017, while Katko has claimed Balter would raise taxes to pay for Medicare-for-all.
Balter has said Medicare-for-all, a single-payer health insurance program, would be funded by raising the Medicare payroll tax. She believes the tax hike would be offset because under Medicare-for-all, individuals would have lower or no out-of-pocket medical expenses.
As for the residency questions, Balter said she moved to Syracuse in 2003. She has acknowledged to living in other locations since then, including a stay with her sister in Pennsylvania while recovering from a severe concussion. Once she recovered, she re-enrolled in the doctoral program at Syracuse University in 2012.
Last year, Balter was named a visiting assistant teaching professor at the university. A visiting assistant teaching professor is usually a temporary assignment and doesn't provide the individual with a path to tenure. For Balter, the job opportunity arose as she was continuing her doctoral studies.
The ad is the latest salvo in the 24th district race, which has quickly become a contest to watch as both parties fight for the House majority.
Last week, Balter announced she raised more than $1.5 million in the third quarter of 2018, a record for a Syracuse-area congressional candidate. That revelation led one political forecaster, Cook Political Report, to update its race rating from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican."
Katko is still favored to win the race. He is seeking a third term in Congress. Balter is a first-time candidate.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.