Committed to Comprehensive Property Tax Reform
Legislative column by Assemblyman Brian M. Kolb (R,C,I-Canandaigua)
June 6, 2008
The New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief recently released its preliminary report, paving the way for comprehensive property tax reform. This Commission, headed by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, recommended a three-pronged approach to tackling the property tax crisis. First, a tax cap on the annual growth in the property tax levy at 4 percent or 120 percent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less. Next, a STAR circuit breaker would be implemented to deliver relief to individual taxpayers based upon their income and ability to pay. Finally, unfunded mandates that drive up school district costs and are ultimately passed on to local property taxpayers must be addressed. The Commission’s tax cap proposal is very similar to the one my Assembly Minority Conference and I drafted in our New York Property Taxpayers’ Protection Act more than a year ago. The major difference between our plan and that of the Commission is that under their recommendations school district residents would no longer need to vote on budgets unless they plan to exceed the cap. To override the cap, school district voters would need at least 55 percent to do so, or 60 percent if the district receives 5 percent or more in increased state aid. Calling unfunded mandates the “root of high property taxes,” the Commission recommends no more legislative or regulatory mandates as well as greater accountability for mandates already in existence. Furthermore, the Commission calls for greater state efforts to rein in the costs associated with salaries, pensions and healthcare. For years, my Conference and I have advocated the elimination of unfunded mandates and excessive costs that inflate school district budgets and drive up local property taxes. I applaud Tom Suozzi and this Commission for advancing a sensible and, seemingly, comprehensive approach to resolve our state’s property tax nightmare. These three proposals, which Governor David Paterson has begun to introduce as legislation, are like puzzle pieces meant to fit together, resulting in the desired outcome. Together, the three Commission recommendations - the tax cap, STAR circuit breaker and unfunded mandate relief - have the potential to achieve the comprehensive property tax reform we have been seeking so desperately. The Commission has paved a path for the Legislature to take action on comprehensive property tax reform. It is unfortunate that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has already announced his opposition to the Commission’s proposals. We can differ on the specifics of the legislation; we cannot, however, accept one person’s desire to block any action at all. The two houses of the Legislature and the Governor must start negotiating now, because legislation that will provide much-needed relief for the hardworking taxpayers of our state needs to be adopted before session ends later this month. Should you like to discuss this or any other state-related issue, please contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.