Assemblymembers Ken Zebrowski and Sandy Galef, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Real Property Taxation, announced their opposition to Governor Cuomo’s STAR program proposals. The Governor announced his proposal to freeze STAR benefits during the State of the State and Budget Address last week, he announced similar changes to last year’s executive budget. Freezing STAR benefits would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years and would decrease the relief that many homeowners rely on to deal with the burden of high school property taxes. The Assemblymembers will oppose the freeze and the Governor’s proposal to change the program to an income tax credit from a property tax reduction. The conversion would cause a burden to new homeowners as they would no longer see a direct deduction to their annual school property tax bill. They will be sending a letter, with a coalition of their colleagues, to Speaker Carl Heastie urging the Assembly to reject the proposals in the Assembly budget resolution, as well as a letter of opposition to Governor Cuomo.
“STAR and Enhanced STAR are highly popular school tax relief programs for our residents and senior citizens,” stated Galef. “As our state continues to take action to lower property taxes, the Governor’s budget proposals counteract our efforts to help taxpayers and they must be rejected in our state budget.”
Last year, Assemblyman Zebrowski organized a coalition of legislators in opposition to the proposal and, working with Assemblywoman Galef, successfully prevented it from being included in the final budget. The Governor has proposed a similar freeze to the program this year, to cap Basic and Enhanced STAR benefits at 0%. The freeze would also especially affect low income seniors on Enhanced STAR as they rely heavily on the savings resulting from the program. The members will also oppose the Governor’s proposal to convert the STAR exemption from a property tax deduction to an income tax credit. This conversion would require new homeowners to file it as a part of their income taxes and they would no longer see a direct deduction to their annual school property tax bill. Residents would be forced to pay a substantial amount of money in a property tax increase before seeing relief later in the year.
“The STAR program is a critical investment that helps both middle class families and seniors with the high burden of school property taxes. The Governor’s proposal to freeze STAR benefits, and transfer the program to an income tax credit, is the first step of dismantling our most successful tax relief program. I intend to once again organize my Assembly colleagues to defeat this proposal,” said Assemblyman Zebrowski.
The Assemblymembers have begun to organize members in an effort to outright reject the Governor’s proposed changes to the STAR program. They feel the above proposals would begin to change the face of STAR and alter its most basic function: to protect and bring relief to New York taxpayers.