Gov. David Paterson’s plan to call back lawmakers for a special session on property taxes before the November elections will put the thorny issue front and center—not just for the Legislature but the gubernatorial candidates, as well, according to a recent story by BuffaloNews.com
The governor’s plan, rejected repeatedly by the leadership of the Democratic-run Assembly, calls for capping local property tax increases at 4 percent a year or 120 percent of the inflation rate, whichever is lower.
But that plan, an uphill climb for some lawmakers and public employees unions that oppose it, is still less ambitious than proposals already pushed on the campaign trail by Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Carl Paladino in the governor’s race.
The campaigns were quick to jump on the governor’s call for a special session — though with far different reactions.
“Andrew Cuomo believes the sooner we can provide relief for New York homeowners from the crushing burden of skyrocketing property taxes that are driving people from their homes and even out of the state, the better,” said Josh Vlasto, a Cuomo campaign spokesman.
The Cuomo plan calls for capping annual property tax growth at 2 percent or the inflation rate. A school district could escape the cap if 60 percent of voters approve a higher tax levy.
The Paladino campaign called the Paterson plan too weak. Paladino, a Buffalo businessman, has said local property taxes, including school levies, need to be cut, not just capped.
“Caps are gutless; cutting takes courage. Capping before you cut is like walking before you run. New York needs to run, not walk, toward economic prosperity,” said Michael Caputo, Paladino’s campaign manager. “But if Paterson can get the Legislature to walk, he should tell them this is just a prelude to a sprint in 2011, because Carl is coming.”
The lift is in the Assembly, which has repeatedly rejected Paterson’s tax cap. Bill Wise, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said the Manhattan Democrat is working with his colleagues to determine a date to return to Albany. But Wise did not commit to acting on any tax plan, saying only the Assembly will be looking at plans put forward by Paterson and Cuomo, as well as a New Jersey tax cap law and previous efforts advanced in the Assembly.
The Senate is certain to pass a tax cap, again.
A special session also will include legislation to authorize the state to spend $700 million in federal funding recently won by New York in the national Race to the Top program.
The sides were talking Monday about a date to return to Albany, but Senate Democrats — battling with Republicans for control of the 62-member chamber—said they are ready to come back to pass the education funding and property tax relief measures.
But Senate Republicans noted Democrats will again be put in the position of choosing between Paterson’s less ambitious tax cap plan and others advanced on the gubernatorial campaign trail.
“The governor’s proposal doesn’t go far enough in our opinion,” said John McArdle, a Senate GOP spokesman, who added that a Republican amendment to cap the tax growth at 2.5 percent was defeated earlier this year in the Senate.