State Budget-New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his 2018 executive state budget proposal during a news conference at the Clark Auditorium in Albany on Jan. 16. Gov. Cuomo wants to separate the state's tax rates from the federal rates to keep New Yorkers from a $1.5 billion income tax increase, the Democrat's top budget official testified Thursday during a budget hearing.

Hans Pennink, Associated Press

The New York State Senate’s first order of business last week was a nod to Republicans’ fiscal conservatism.

We could use more of that in New York, especially after getting a peek at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.

The Senate voted 51-10 to make the 2 percent tax cap on property taxes permanent while voting 41-20 to make the self-imposed 2 percent cap on state spending permanent.

Both are important steps to take.

Sen. Elizabeth Little and Sen. Kathy Marchione both voted for the measures.

We don’t believe there is any one piece of legislation that has more significantly impacted the middle class taxpayer over the past five years than the tax cap.

According to supporters of the bill, New York’s property taxes increased 73 percent for school districts and 53 percent for counties between 2001 and 2011.

Since it was implemented, supporters say taxpayers have saved some $23 billion, with the tax cap dipping below 2 percent in 2014, 2015 and 2016 because of low inflation.

That’s significant.

We’ve been reluctant in the past to back permanent status of the property tax cap until we got a good look at how it was working. We were concerned that many small local school districts might run into a fiscal crisis down the road.

So far, that has not happened.

The tax cap has allowed taxpayers to anticipate modest tax increases with few surprises. That has been especially important with working-class wages going up only modestly in recent years.

But more importantly, the tax cap has challenged schools and counties to be frugal with their spending as never before.

We often hear from schools that the tax cap is hurting education, but we point out that the state is once again increasing state aid to schools, which should help.

So why not make the tax cap permanent?

Our board was pragmatic, agreeing that anything that is done by the state Legislature can also be undone.

We believe it may be even more important to make the 2 percent cap on state spending permanent, especially with the news that the state is facing a $4 billion shortfall this year.

Gov. Cuomo is proposing $1 billion in new fees to raise revenues, and while the state has many challenges – infrastructure and mass transit in New York City to name two – it needs to hold the line on state spending this year and the forseeable future.

Senate officials say the cap on state spending has saved taxpayers nearly $41 billion sice the 2010-11 budget.

If Gov. Cuomo and the Assembly were to follow the Senate’s lead and back these two bills, it would go a long way toward reassuring taxpayers that the state is serious about putting its financial house in order.

They should do that immediately.

Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Robert Forcey, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Carol Merchant and Eric Mondschein.

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