Monday, January 16th, 2017

The Governor’s Plea

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo launched an extensive TV campaign urging residents to write their state representatives and ask them to support his latest idea to cut property taxes. His plan is relatively simple –  have municipalities combine services and keep property tax increases under a 2% limit. He bemoans how some of the highest property taxes in the nation are centered on upstate counties. Cuomo said the state needs to pressure these municipalities to cut spending in order to establish long-term tax savings in a state with among the highest taxes in the nation.

Cuomo wants to spend $1 billion a year to fund a plan that would provide a property-tax rebate check in communities where local governments and schools stay under the state’s property-tax cap. In year two, homeowners would get the rebate if the local governments and schools came up with a plan to share services and cut the property-tax levy.

What Cuomo does not explain is that school districts and municipalities have been combining services in an effort to curtail property tax increases for years!

Cuomo’s  plan, obviously, has been opposed by schools and local governments, as well as Senate Republicans.

Under the tax freeze, the rebate  would come in a check to property owners this fall and would be the difference between keeping property taxes flat and the increase under the property-tax cap, which this year is less than 2 percent.

Cuomo has estimated that, by 2015, the average rebate would be $200 upstate and $580 in the New York City suburbs. In Westchester County, the rebate check would average at least $800.

It is also estimated that 2.8 million households would get a check. It would be for households with incomes less than $500,000. Critics said that households with $500,000 in income are wealthy homeowners, and the tax breaks should be more targeted to the middle class.

Cuomo does have a plan – after the two-year freeze – for a circuit breaker that would average about $500 a year per home and would be for households that earn less than $200,000 a year.

What Cuomo does not explain is that many of those same upstate counties do not receive a fair share of state funding, while Albany presses more and more unfunded mandates on upstate property owners.

What the Governor does not explain is how New York still is mighty generous with welfare benefits and how the state expanded Medicaid coverage to low-income adults effective January 1, 2014.

The scenario the Governor proposes  is mighty good for election purposes in downstate, but should leave a sour taste in the mouths of many property tax paying residents.

Meanwhile, the Governor comes up with more plans to give massive tax breaks to new and relocating businesses and excessive “tax-free” zones, while pretty much ignoring established, existing business woes.

In the end, the idea is to shift problems from the state to local municipalities, something this governor is very good at.