Property Tax Cap is a Critical First Step

Messenger Post Media - By Assemblyman Joe Morelle
February 10, 2011
In one of many memorable moments that occurred during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, the governor recognized Irondequoit’s Geraldine Sullivan as a citizen and symbol of how New York’s crushing property taxes affect every citizen.

At 81, Geraldine returned to work in order to keep her home and remain in the community she calls home. I invited Geraldine to the address because I believe that no New Yorker should have to make such a choice.

And that is why, when the governor promised Geraldine that “help is on the way,” he coupled that pledge with a call for a property tax cap.

Gov. Cuomo’s proposal would cap property tax levy growth at 2 percent a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, and allow override of this restriction through public referendum.

Is this the cure for all of New York’s ills? No.

However, given that New York leads the nation in terms of property taxes, it is a critical first step toward providing relief for hard-working families. It also sets the right tone for future discussions about spending and taxation.

A property tax cap forces us to think in terms of efficiencies and the limitations of homeowners’ wallets. It also forces all of us to confront what drives the spiraling cost of state government, which in turn passes the burden to local governments and their property taxpayers.

Gov. Cuomo is already leading the way by proposing consolidation of state agencies; calling for workforce reductions and wage freezes; and mounting serious efforts to reduce unfunded mandates and cut our state’s exorbitant Medicaid expenses.

And through Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, he is also convening regional economic councils to create the new private sector jobs our state so desperately needs. Genuine economic expansion will be essential to any fiscal stability we hope to achieve in the future.

Clearly, New York’s difficulties are many and complex, and resolving them is a long-term proposition. In the interim, the enactment of a property tax cap will offer hope to New Yorkers like Geraldine Sullivan who deserve and need help – right now.