Paterson, lawmakers vow to address property taxes

ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders said Wednesday they will try to finally curb the growth of some of the nation’s highest property taxes.

But that pledge was immediately criticized as similar to unfulfilled promises from past years. Local school taxes and other property taxes are now 78 percent above the national average; on Long Island, for example, annual tax bills exceeding $10,000 are common.

Paterson, who is reviving his call for a cap on school tax growth, is seeking ideas from Assembly and Senate leaders that can become law this session, which ends in late June.
“People are voting with their feet,” Paterson said at a rare public meeting with legislative leaders to focus on property tax relief. “They are leaving the state in droves.”

Silver also supported an effort by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has proposed a bill that would streamline the ability of residents to seek consolidations of local governments and special service districts such as fire protection and library districts. The bill would allow citizens to petition for consolidation of local governing bodies or services, such as police protection.

“He needs ideas?” asked financial analyst E.J. McMahon, director of the Empire Center for New York State Policy. “Every idea is out there _ good, bad and indifferent. The property tax cap is the pivotal idea.”

He referred to Paterson’s proposal last year to cap the growth of school taxes to about 4 percent, but allow residents to override it if they felt it was necessary. The measure gained late approval by the Senate, but not by the Democrat-led Assembly.

“If the governor gets real again (about a tax cap), it could happen,” McMahon said in an interview.

“It’s a positive step,” said Elizabeth Lynam of the independent Citizens Budget Commission. “It marks an important sea change that they realize local taxes are the problem in New York state and something has to be done to remedy the situation if there is to be any hope.”

Republican Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos said the effort would have a better chance of easing taxes if it had been part of the budget passed in April, which increased spending, taxes and fees and eliminated school property tax rebate checks. He said the Democrats‘ $2.2 billion bailout of New York City’s transit system, paid for by higher fares, fees and a payroll tax, brings the Democrats’ spending and taxing to $10 billion this year. The bailout was voted on hours later.

“It is ironic that you are talking about mandate relief today,” said Skelos, a Nassau County Republican who noted that his GOP conference was shut out of budget and MTA talks.

Paterson said he also wanted to avoid taxes and fees this year, but the recession and Wall Street’s meltdown forced an array of revenue-raising measures including on higher income tax rate for wealthier New Yorkers, which he agreed could kill jobs.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a lower Manhattan Democrat, also said he wants to curb property taxes and reduce school costs. But he said that cutting local school taxes shouldn’t be done at the expense of children attending schools that are underfunded now.

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny–nypropertytaxes0506may06,0,5806526.story

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