Late Tuesday night, after 125 days of unnecessary financial costs and delays to New York taxpayers and a continued refusal to follow the Budget Reform Act of 2007, the Senate Majority FINALLY did their job and completed work on the 2010-11 State Budget. The spending plan – which was supposed to have been completed back on April 1 – was passed just eight days short of becoming the latest budget ever in New York’s history.
Folks, the final product was nothing to write home about: the budget was crafted in near secrecy, increased spending over last year, imposed over $1 billion in new taxes and fees, while doing nothing to fix New York’s long-term structural imbalances that threaten our financial future. I voted “No” on the State Budget’s revenue bill for exactly these reasons.
IN THE WAKE OF A LATE STATE BUDGET, A GLIMMER OF HOPE
If there was any light at the end of Albany’s long, dysfunctional tunnel, it was the Senate’s passage of a property tax cap and Governor Paterson joining me in pressing the Assembly Majority to end years of obstruction and finally pass the cap. This week, I once again urged the Assembly Majority to finally bring a tax cap to the floor for an up-or-down vote when the Assembly returns to Albany.
Nobody could argue with the fact that the high cost of property taxes is crushing homeowners and killing our state’s quality of life. The time for a tax cap is NOW – the Assembly Majority should not make taxpayers wait for Governor Paterson to bring us back in October as he publicly indicated last week. We should reconvene immediately, take up, and pass, a property tax cap as our first order of business.
LEADING THE FIGHT ON A PROPERTY TAX CAP
For the past several years, the Assembly Minority has continually introduced property tax cap legislation and called for an up-or-down vote on the Assembly floor. Taxpayers want it. Governor Paterson wants it. The State Senate has already passed it. All of the candidates for governor, from both parties, want it. It is time for the Assembly Majority to “get it,” stop their delays and finally take action. The good news is we don’t need to start from scratch – there already is property tax cap legislation in the Assembly. Back in 2007, my colleagues and I introduced the “New York State Property Taxpayers Protection Act.”
Our tax cap would limit the growth of local school levies to four percent annually or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. Equally important, our bill also delivers much-needed unfunded mandate relief to help free school districts from Albany’s regulatory headaches. When implemented, the New York State Property Taxpayers Protection Act would deliver billions in real property tax relief for homeowners and local school districts. In my weekly legislative column back in early July, I made “the case for the cap” and I am certainly not alone in recognizing the need for this common sense measure. Over 74 municipalities across the state have already gone on record in support of our legislation.
Additionally, a May, 2010 Siena Research Institute poll found an overwhelming majority of taxpayers strongly supportive of a property tax cap, and for good reason: New York homeowners pay property taxes 79 percent above the national average and, from 2000 to 2009, school property tax levies throughout New York increased by 84 percent.
NEW YORK WOULD JOIN OVER A DOZEN STATES WITH TAX CAPS
Members of our Assembly Minority Conference have championed property tax cap legislation for years, only to run into roadblock after roadblock put up by an Assembly Majority who opposes the cap. In 1980, neighboring Massachusetts instituted a tax cap, and California has had its tax cap in place since 1978. However, the Assembly Majority has not held a single floor vote on New York having a tax cap. Our Assembly Minority Conference is looking to change that.
MOMENTUM IS BUILDING FOR A PROPERTY TAX CAP
Recently, the political terrain has shifted and I believe momentum is building for a property tax cap. We have the first real chance in a very long time to finally have an up-or-down vote on a property tax cap when the Assembly returns for session. If property tax cap legislation were brought to the floor for an up-or-down vote, I believe it would pass. At the very least, taxpayers would see which Members are serious about delivering real property tax relief. We need to hold this vote as quickly as possible so we can get a property tax cap law on the books – and give struggling homeowners a glimmer of hope that real relief is finally on the way.
In addition to a property tax cap, several other issues should be brought to the floor for up-or-down votes when the Assembly returns to Albany. This unfinished business includes passing a state spending cap; adopting a plan to give SUNY schools more flexibility; providing a permanent extension of the Power for Jobs program; instituting comprehensive ethics reform; banning unfunded state mandates and enacting a statewide economic development plan. Like the property tax cap, each of these measures is clearly deserving of an up-or-down vote. When it comes to delivering real tax relief, New York’s overtaxed, overburdened homeowners cannot afford to wait any longer – they deserve a property tax cap and they deserve it now!
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and informational updates regarding state government and our Assembly Minority Conference.