Working to Reduce Property Taxes

February 17, 2006

One of my top legislative priorities is to provide homeowners with real relief from runaway property taxes. People in my district in Western New York and all across the state are reeling from these staggering costs.

It is the American dream to own your own home. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to pay their mortgages and other necessities when they are being hit by skyrocketing property tax bills.

This past week, I joined my Assembly minority colleagues to announce a comprehensive plan to reduce New York’s property tax burden. The Saving Our Homes – Property Tax Relief Plan includes enhancements to the STAR Program, including STAR Excelsior and a Co-STAR program, additional reforms to prevent Medicaid fraud and waste, and other measures aimed at keeping more tax dollars in the pockets of hard-working New Yorkers.

The new proposals would save the average homeowner $715 annually, and the average senior citizen homeowner $1,256 each year. This Saving Our Homes plan will deliver much-needed assistance to residents who are demanding the state do something to ease the crushing burden of property taxes.

The STAR Program has proven successful in providing school tax relief, but it has not kept pace with the current costs of property taxes and home values. The newly-proposed STAR Excelsior program would provide $1.75 billion in additional tax relief by immediately indexing the Basic and Enhanced STAR exemptions to the current median housing value. As a result, homeowners would see their current STAR exemptions rise by 70 percent. The new Co-STAR program would provide an additional $287 million in property tax rebates for seniors and farmers.

Fraud, waste, and abuse within the Medicaid system also put a tremendous burden on New York taxpayers – to the tune of nearly $4.5 billion annually. This plan calls for Medicaid fraud recovery and reporting legislation, strengthening the Office of Medicaid Inspector General and allowing counties to return savings they achieve by eliminating waste and fraud to property taxpayers.

All of New York’s school districts were forced to endure cuts in Operating Aid in the 2003-04 state budget. Although State Aid has increased since then, 477 districts are still trying to get by on less Operating Aid than they received four years ago. This proposal would provide $72.86 million in Restoration Aid to taxpayers.

We cannot continue to levy an unreasonable tax burden upon homeowners. The Saving Our Homes plan is the right thing to do on behalf of taxpayers.

I will aggressively advocate for these practical solutions to help our residents save their hard-earned money. New York taxpayers deserve action on this issue now.