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HV Officials Comment On Tax Relief Recommendations

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Some officials in the Hudson Valley are weighing in on the recommendations released this week by the New York State Tax Relief Commission appointed earlier this year by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The Tax Relief Commission was charged with finding ways to reduce property and business taxes. Released less than three months after the commission’s formation, recommendations focus on providing property tax relief for New York homeowners and businesses. Recommendations include lowering the corporate tax rate; reducing the tax rate for manufacturers upstate; and updating the estate tax to bring New York in line with other states.

Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados says he concurs with the commission’s recommendations, especially the focus on property tax relief.

“Property taxes is the most burdensome tax facing individuals, families, and businesses, and one that really needs our attention,” says Skartados. “I’ve been calling for this for a very long time so this is extremely good news. The commission recommends that the state develop a program that would target real property tax relief based on the individual homeowner’s ability to pay. That’s very significant. This is what I’ve been calling for since I went to Albany.”

And while he praised the recommendations, he said something was missing.

“I would have liked to have seen tackle the idea of changing the way we fund our schools. I mean it’s something that we need to focus on must work on. It’s an ancient century system that does not work in the 21st century,” Skartodos says. “So I know it deals with property taxes but school taxes in particular are something that we must work on.”

Back when the commission was formed, Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino welcomed its involvement in lowering property taxes across the state, but said any meaningful effort to bring tax relief must start with delivering mandate relief to school districts and local governments.

The Tax Relief Commission’s two co-chairs are former Governor George Pataki, a Republican, and former State Comptroller Carl McCall, a Democrat.

Jonathan Drapkin is president and CEO of Newburgh-based non-profit planning and advocacy organization Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress. He applauds the recommendation that $1 billion gained through relief measures be given as rebates to residents who live in jurisdictions that take meaningful steps toward savings through sharing services.

“For Pattern for Progress, which has spent years working on shared services and consolidation of services in school districts, in towns, in villages, the notion that some of the tax relief money will be used to incentivize further efforts in this area is terrific, because it is something that always needs a push,” says Drapkin. “People truly have to believe that there is an upside to changing the status quo.”

Shared services could be between village and town police departments, for example.

Mike Durant is New York State Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, or NFIB. He cited cutting taxes for manufacturers and lowering the corporate tax rate as recommendations he hopes will be part of Governor Cuomo’s 2014 budget proposal. However, Durant expressed concerns regarding the recommendations on the topic of property tax relief, saying NFIB is fundamentally opposed to a circuit breaker concept in any form as it represents a tax shift rather than a tax cut. 

Meanwhile, Democratic State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk likes the idea of implementing a property tax circuit breaker. She says it would provide much needed relief for communities.

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