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Tax Cap Measure Passes NY Senate, Stalls In Assembly

The New York State capitol in Albany
Dave Lucas

The New York state Senate passed a bill to make the state’s eight-year-old property tax cap permanent. So far the Assembly has not approved the measure.  

Since the legislative session began, several major measures including the Reproductive Health Act and early voting have been approved by Democrats who control both chambers, with minority party Republicans voting "no."

One rare instance of bipartisan unity, in the Senate at least, was over the issue of making the state’s temporary two percent annual property tax cap permanent.  

The measure was sponsored by freshman Democrat from Long Island, Jim Gaughran. Gaughran is one of several Democrats who replaced Republicans in New York City’s suburbs, where high property are a concern. He says federal changes in the tax code that limit the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted are putting even more pressure on New York’s taxpayers. He says a permanent cap gives them some certainty.

“Families in my district and across the state will have to make decisions as to what they’re not going to pay, what are they going to delay,” Gaughran said. “Maybe it’s their tuition for their kids, maybe it’s their property taxes, maybe it’s their mortgage.”  

Senator Gaughran says the state should be giving more money to local schools as a way to bring property taxes down, which he calls a “regressive” tax.

Senator Anna Kaplan, also a freshman from Long Island, is a co-sponsor. The Democrat says taxpayers need all the help they can get to slow the growth of property taxes.  

“We need to use all the tools at our disposal to help government to live within in its means,” Kaplan said. “And to bring relief to struggling taxpayers.”

The Senate Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, is from Westchester. She said shortly after elections last November that she would seek to make the tax cap permeant. 

Senate Republicans all voted for the cap, but they voiced some concerns. Some said the tax cap should also apply to New York City. Senator Panela Helming, a Republican from Geneva, says the tax cap also needs to be accompanied by mandate relief. She says local government struggle to keep within the cap because they are forced to finance numerous unfunded mandate from the state. Helming says the tax cap has slowed down the growth of taxes, but more needs to be done to actually lower taxes. 

“We still continue to see property taxes increasing,” Helming said. “And until we stop that, we’re going to see people leaving the state.”

The measure was approved by a vote of 59 to 1.

The State Assembly did not act on the measure.  

Some in the Assembly want to keep the property tax cap bill as a bargaining chip to achieve reform of New York City’s rent laws.

But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who has been working closely with Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins on major issues, says no one should read too much into that.

“We are both Democratic houses, but we may not be always on the same schedule, so I don’t think anybody should have any notice or concern if they pass a bill first or we pass a bill first, or vice versa,” Heastie said.

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is a supporter of making the property tax cap permanent, and included the legislation to do so in his state budget plan.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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