Senate shifting on tax cap?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 at 11:22 pm by

Newsday reports, “Long Island senators, who have helped spearhead a push for a statewide property-tax cap, now say it’s unlikely a cap gets enacted at all this year.”

The move could be a ploy to push Governor Cuomo to become more aggressive in pursuing mandate relief.

The paper quotes Senate Education Committee Chair John Flanagan (R-East Northport):  “Given what is going on right now, I don’t think there will be a property-tax cap this year.”

The report goes on to quote Senator Flanagan,

…I know in my conversations with my own colleagues . . . many of my colleagues in the Senate Republican conference have made it very, very clear we will not enact any [cap] that could become law unless there are significant modifications, especially in the area of mandate relief.

In late January, the Senate voted to approve Governor Cuomo’s proposal to cap school and local government property tax increases.  Under this proposal, without voter approval, schools would have been barred from raising their local tax levy above the prior year amount – a zero percent cap.

The Senate’s changing posture may simply be a strategy to pressure Governor Cuomo to get serious about mandate relief.

Newsday reports that Senator Flanagan called the recent preliminary report of the Governor’s Mandate Relief Redesign Team, an “87-page report that in my opinion is useless.”

Whatever the motivation, the Senate’s shift is commendable.

Testifying at a recent Assembly hearing, I explained the colliding pressures on schools of declining state aid and surging benefit costs then said,

In this context, a tax cap seems like an attempt by state officials to claim credit for solving a problem while leaving it to local leaders to take all the difficult steps actually needed to restrain or reverse local property tax growth.

I also said the Council’s position on a tax cap could be expressed in just 10 words:  A tax cap will hurt schools.  There are better options.

Actual serious steps to help schools cut or control costs would make a tax cap both more manageable and unnecessary.

The complete Newsday article is available here, but a paid subscription is required.

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