ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he’s facing “fierce” opposition to his proposed property tax cap in Albany and needs New Yorkers to issue an ultimatum to their elected officials: Pass it or “don’t come home.”
The message was released in a video that Cuomo and his aides will repeat in a statewide tour on his policy goals, which also include ethics reform and legalizing gay marriage. Cuomo said, however, that his property tax cap plan is “job one.” Meanwhile, opponents called Cuomo’s cap a political mirage that benefits the wealthy at the expense of school children.
“The people are going to have to overpower the lobbyists,” Cuomo said. “The peoples’ voice wins in a democracy. But the peoples’ voice must be heard ... tell your elected representatives in Albany that enough is enough. Pass the tax cap now or don’t come home.”
Back in Albany, a broad coalition including teachers and other public workers’ unions, the League of Women Voters and other good-government groups urged the Legislature to alter Cuomo’s proposal. The Omnibus Consortium said a “hard” property tax cap of 2 percent growth a year will hurt schools and local social services while not providing tax relief to those who need it most. The group wants a “circuit breaker” that would factor in taxpayers’ incomes to drive more tax relief to middle and lower income New Yorkers, and less to wealthier property owners to continue what the group considers adequate funding for schools and local government services and their workers.
“The simplest solution to a problem is not always the most effective,” said Bill Samuels, founder of the government reform group called the New Roosevelt Initiative. “Overburdened taxpayers with limited incomes need personal property tax relief now. And woe to the politician who supports this rhetorically popular, but ill-conceived, tax cap when their constituents open their next tax bill and find no relief.”
Gioia Shebar of the group Tax Nightmare says Cuomo’s cap is a gift to corporate taxpayers.
“The discredited cap doesn’t meet any need but for politicians to look busy,” Shebar said. “Our inequitable, chaotic tax system — which cries out for reform — has resulted in that classic moment when panicked leaders say, ‘Shut up and drink the Kool-Aid,’” Shebar said Tuesday.
Cuomo stopped at Syracuse’s Onondaga Community College Tuesday to kick off the tour scheduled to continue through the final weeks of the legislative session, which ends in late June. Cuomo is expected to focus on the property tax in upstate stops and on Long Island, where the issue has long been a priority of residents. The gay marriage bill he favors is expected to continue to be an issue in New York City, where support has been strongest in polls.
He will walk a fine line by going into local markets to pressure lawmakers without antagonizing the Legislature. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s similar effort in 2007 resulted in gridlock.
Cuomo is also expected to push for his ethics reform measure, which is being negotiated with legislative leaders in closed-door sessions. No bill or draft has yet been released for the measure, which would be aimed at forcing greater disclosure of income and higher standards for lawmakers.
The popular Democrat’s cap proposal would limit the growth in local property taxes, already among the highest in the nation, to 2 percent annually or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Local voters could override the cap with a 60-percent vote. A few exemptions of unforeseeable expenses could also suspend the cap.
“The cap will put the odds in favor of the taxpayer, because the deck has been stacked against the taxpayers for too long,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said local government and school property taxes rose 73 percent over the last decade, more than double the inflation rate. That forces people from their homes and stymies job growth, he
The Republican-led Senate has already passed Cuomo’s proposal, but is refusing to negotiate what its members would consider a weakening of the measure. Cuomo’s bill is sponsored in the Democrat-led Assembly by Speaker Sheldon Silver, but it hasn’t moved any closer to a floor vote and the Democrats from New York City who lead the chamber are being pressured by teacher unions that oppose the cap.