What the Property Tax Cap Means for Mandates

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties, joinedthe show to discuss the property tax cap agreement and the effect on counties around New York.

Relief pitcher

Last year, Andrew Cuomo ran on a property tax cap. Now, he's inches away from the finish line.

With Albany's legislative session in extra innings, it looks like the overtime will produce a compromise: annual property tax collections will be capped at two percent, and local governments could be relieved of mandates that require spending on state programs. Stephen Acquario said that you can't have one without the other, that you can't limit municipal revenues and still ask local governments to pony up cash to the state that they'd rather spend at home.

The state must be responsible for its programs and services. The state shouldn't say to locals, 'You can't spend your local revenue on local programs, you have to spend it on state programs first.' How is that fair?

Making it meaningful

On Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos announced that there was a "tentative framework" for an agreement on a property tax cap and mandate relief. However, Acquario said that he hasn't seen anything close to what he calls "meaningful mandate relief" in the legislation that would successfully implement the cap.

Apparently the Speaker has problems with the Senate's mandate relief package, which is critical to the Senate conference. It's not over with yet, it's a very fluid situation. But clearly, to effectively implement a tax cap without destroying community college participation, or long-term home health care programs, nursing homes, tourism, water, sewer, economic development projects, road patrol, infrastructure—they need to get this relief.

Medicaid: the Big Kahuna

What state programs is Acquario referring to? What unfunded mandates currently make a property tax cap unworkable? What would be "meaningful," to borrow Acquario's term?

For a bloated, expensive and ineffective mandate, Acquario said, look no further than Medicaid. And he has an idea of how to deal with it.

Medicaid is the Big Kahuna. We've delivered a plan to the governor calling for a ten-year phase-out of local property taxes, local taxes funding a federal Medicaid program in New York State. It started in the 1960s and it's grown up to be a program that's out of control spending. Recipients aren't benefiting from this, providers aren't benefiting from this, and local taxpayers are hurting from this.


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Comments [8]

Jim from Rockland

The definition of irony....

Local and school taxes will now be capped at 2% annually yet SUNY (a STATE institution) gets the go ahead to raise tuition $300 a year (5-6%) for the next five years.

I guess the State knows they can't sustain themselves at 2%. Local governments and Schools be damned!

Jun. 22 2011 12:17 PM
Hugh from Manhattan

You mentioned that the tax cap doesn't cover NYC and that taxes in the city are lower. My property tax on a 600 sq foot condo have gone from something like $600.00 per quarter 4 years ago to $1109.00 starting this quarter.

You tax millionaires a little extra and they will leave we are told. The hell with the rest of us, raise the sales tax, property tax, subway etc. For us, it's "If you don't like it, leave."

Jun. 22 2011 11:24 AM
Rudi from Queens

The spin has been that by bundling Rent Stabilization with the property tax cap, we'd get improved Rent Stabilization protections that were written away in 1997. Instead, the Dems are, again, just giving away the farm.

$2500 vacancy decontrol is hardly an improvement. It's not even an inflation adjustment. $2,500 level is like $1,850 in 1997 dollars. ($2,000 then is like $2,700 today.)

Already as a result of the 1997 level, NYC probably has more marble bathrooms than any city this side of Abu Dhabi. So this continued provision only yet further encourages wasteful "upgrading" that squeezes out the middle class, and discourages new housing construction.

Jun. 22 2011 11:00 AM
gregory from The Bronx

(DINO governor of NY) Cuomo and state legislature to people of New York: "Drop Dead!" (P.S., in case you didn't know, the landlord lobby is the largest political contributor in albany).

Jun. 22 2011 10:48 AM
Yosif (like Josif but with a Y) from Manhattan

First the Cuomo runs ads against a millionaires tax, and now all he's talking about is cutting taxes and cutting services and capping porperty taxes like they did in California (that worked out well). He throws us a fig leaf of gay marraige and thinks it will be ok, but we know that Cuomo is acting more like a republican than a democrat

Jun. 22 2011 10:45 AM
Alan from clifton,nj

We have the property tax cap in place in new jersey, but there are many exceptions which allow towns to go over 2%. At the end of the day our taxes did go up 3.8% last year in my town. To me it's nothing more than a smoke and mirror show and a talking point in a reelection bid.

Jun. 22 2011 10:45 AM
David from West Hempstead

UHC in NYS would solve the medicaid problem.

Jun. 22 2011 10:44 AM
sp from nyc

Please ask why the tax cap applies to everyone except NYC--we are now less burdened than anyone else.

Jun. 22 2011 10:42 AM

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