During his first month as New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo moved aggressively to deliver on his vital campaign pledge to build a "New NY." We were pleased that the governor made the first bill of his administration a measure to cap real property taxes at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Days later, the State Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill with bipartisan support.
We were hopeful that the bill would have received the same support in the lower house. However, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari recently said that property tax relief is not an immediate priority, and indicated that the issue should be addressed after the state budget is enacted.
The governor can force action on a property tax cap by including his proposal in his budget amendments which are due in early March. Last June, then as attorney general, Cuomo publicly called on Gov. Paterson to include a property tax cap in his budget extender bills. Then-Attorney General Cuomo was correct in pushing this process last year, and Unshackle Upstate is calling on Gov. Cuomo to do something very similar and include his property tax cap bill in his 30-day budget amendments.
The widespread support for a real property tax cap is evident. A January Siena Research Institute poll found that 83 percent of New Yorkers support a property tax cap. The bill passed the Senate with support from all parts of the state, including New York City. Several senior Assembly Democrats have come out in support of a property tax cap, including Assemblyman Joe Morelle and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. Assembly Minority Leader Kolb has indicated that the entire membership of his conference - now 51 members - support the 2 percent property tax cap.
This year, the governor is attempting to cut spending, and proposes reducing aid to local governments. If there is no property tax cap in place, these local governments - now looking for new revenue - may simply increase property taxes on homeowners and businesses to make up for the loss of funding from Albany.
We cannot allow this tax shift to happen.
The taxpayers and businesses of New York cannot afford any further delays and uncertainty; it is time to deliver on the promise of property tax relief. Gov. Cuomo has shown true leadership on this issue by making a property tax cap one of his top priorities. Sen. Skelos has done his part by putting the bill on the Senate floor for a vote. Since the Assembly has not yet followed suit, Gov. Cuomo has the power and responsibility to make this issue a part of the budget discussion and get it enacted into law.
We will continue our fight and advocacy for a property tax cap of two percent in the halls of the Capitol and in the communities throughout New York State. Our efforts will not stop until real property tax relief is delivered to residents and businesses of this state.
Unshackle Upstate is a bipartisan coalition of more than 80 business and trade organizations representing upwards of 70,000 companies and employing more than 1.5 million people. Its goal is to change the way New York State government treats taxpayers and private-sector businesses.