Tax Cap Letter to the Editor

July 6, 2011

To the Editor:

I am writing to share why I supported the Tax Cap legislation that was signed into law by Governor Cuomo. Property Taxes in our state, and more specifically in Westchester and Putnam Counties, are among the highest in the United States. It is truly disheartening when I receive so many calls, letters and emails from life-long New Yorkers who love this state but can no longer afford to live here, or from businesses that cannot remain in the black.

We had to do something. I spent a lot of time studying our high taxes by reading reports from New York State Commissions, other statesí reports, and bringing in experts to speak on the subject. In the 1980s, Massachusetts also had some of the highest property taxes in the country. That is what drove them to impose Proposition 2Ĺ which capped property taxes in that state at 2.5% over the prior yearís levy. Massachusetts continues to be a top education state, lauded for its superior schools almost 30 years after the tax cap was imposed, and it is now about 43rd in the country for property taxes.

Over the past three-plus years, I have invited many different interest groups to speak at town hall-style meetings in my district and with me in my office about strategies to address our skyrocketing and unsustainable property taxes. Tom Suozzi, who led the NYS Commission on Property Tax Relief, came to my district a couple of times. His Commission favored a phased in plan which would start with a tax cap followed by a circuit breaker, as a balanced approach to offset property taxes when they far exceed income, and then would address mandate relief. One of the key points he made was that the first step had to be a cap, because without it, nothing would sufficiently drive us to take other corrective actions. In addition, in multiple surveys sent home to my constituents, an overwhelming majority supported a property tax cap.

I joined Governor Cuomo in his commitment to getting this cap passed, and to addressing mandate relief, so New York can get its property taxes in line with other states and once again become competitive in the housing and jobs market. The governor has already introduced a Tier 6 pension plan which I think has many commendable attributes and will go a long way to reducing some of the cost drivers that lead to high tax increases. I fully support him in his mission.

Some mandate relief was included in the legislation, although I do wish we could have included more relief for schools and municipalities simultaneously with the tax cap billís passage. However, I believe that this bill will force us as a legislature to enact further mandate relief. In fact, the combined Legislative and Executive Mandate Relief Council established by this tax cap legislation has been created with that goal in mind. We must get a handle on the cost drivers. Now that this bill has passed, we will continue to spend time tweaking it to make sure it is effective and successful at controlling long term property tax growth, maintaining our excellent schools and municipal services, and ensuring that New Yorkers can remain here and continue to be proud to call the Empire State their home.

Sandy Galef,
Assemblywoman, 90th A.D.