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The Empire

Cuomo's plan to cap property taxes

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Andrew Cuomo discussed a plan to lower property taxes. (Azi Paybarah / WNYC)

Michael Goodwin's column today gets at something I've been muttering about for a few days now: with all the attention on Carl Paldino's headline-grabbing commentary, it's easy to not comb through the policy plans of the guy who is likely to be our next governor, Andrew Cuomo.

Today, thankfully, Cuomo had a substantive campaign event, discussing his plan to cap property taxes. (But they're not entirely courting scrutiny of their agenda. The campaign announced the 10 a.m. event in Rockland County in an 8 a.m. advisory. Also, the longer the focus is on Paladino's outrageous rhetoric, the fewer detailed questions Cuomo is likely to get about his agenda.)

Anyway, the plan to cap property involves a few moving targets. To lower property taxes, Cuomo says he'll "freeze" public employee salaries for one year. Since many union contracts are up for renewal next April, that'll be a fun negotiation.

Cuomo says he'll hold state spending to the rate of inflation. In previous years, it's been growing at twice that rate. Talking about this goal is fine, but when it's budget time, and legislators (and their constitutents) see programs not getting funding, the resistance will begin in earnest.

But the cap is crucial to Cuomo's plan. From his policy book, "Get our Fiscal House in Order," Cuomo says if the state adheres to a 2 percent spending cap, the state could produce a surplus. A $1.1 billion surplus, actually.

What would he do with all that money?

Nearly two-thirds would go to lowering property taxes for middle-class home owners (and some renters). The other one-third would go to the state's Rainy Day fund, he says.

Getting public employees to increase the amount of money they pay towards their state-funded health insurance is another key proposal (Cuomo mentions it twice in his book!). And there's the plan to create a new pension tier that would eliminate a worker's ability to pad his pension by racking up overtime right before retirement.

Other parts of reducing state spending is, to me, less clear.

From his policy book, Cuomo says "the state must do a much better job of controlling over-utlization of Medicaid services" and proposes "having the state take over responsibility for administration of Mediciad" from counties.

There's also a focus on "individuals whose complex needs utilize many expensive resources." Cuomo, in the book, says the state should "more carefully manage and coordinate their services."

Another part of the plan is detailed, but may not come to fruition. Cuomo wants to take away from the state legislature the "authority for setting reimbursement rates" and hand that over to the state's Health Department, which, he'll run as governor. That'll require approval from the legislature and, as noted by many political observers, lawmakers aren't commonly in the position of handing away their own authority.

Other plans Cuomo discusses includes making bulk purchases for medical goods, and combining "back office" work for local school districts. Those sound so common-sensical it's hard to raise any objections to them, until, of course, more detail is provide. It's likely that consolidation of back office work will lead to layoffs (it usually does in the private sector).