On Tuesday, April 12, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, a large number of legislators from both sides of the aisle and representatives from key pro-tax cap organizations – including Unshackle Upstate – called on the Assembly Majority to pass the 2-percent tax cap bill. The event was packed with media including members of the Associated Press, Gannett New Service, state and local television and radio outlets.
Senate Majority Leader Skelos began the press conference by highlighting that from 1998-2008, school property tax levies grew by 73 percent – twice the rate of inflation. He also referenced Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address during which the governor said “…help is on the way, we will pass a property tax cap…”. Senator Skelos went to point out that last year, 435 school districts increased taxes by more than the 2 percent than would be allowed under the proposed cap. Had the cap already been enacted, taxpayers would have saved $223 million.
Senator Skelos concluded his opening remarks and then introduced Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. Assembly Kolb, who has been extremely vocal in his support a tax cap, promptly pointed out that the Assembly Majority has yet to take action on the 2-percent tax cap bill and insisted that the bill be brought to the floor for a vote. He noted that the Assembly Minority tried to advance the tax cap through a hostile amendment process but that attempt ultimately failed.
Following Assemblyman Kolb, Senator John Flanagan took the podium. He called attention to the fact that throughout the campaign season and still today, elected officials have heard the pleas for tax relief from people in the districts. Like his Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Kolb, he called for immediate action on the tax cap bill.
Heather Briccetti, acting-president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc., spoke next and pointed out that the business community pays 40 percent of the total real property taxes in the state. She highlighted that New York’s business tax climate – rated worst in the nation by The Tax Foundation – is a tremendous obstacle to private-sector job growth.
Senator Skelos then introduced Unshackle Upstate executive director Brian Sampson as “an individual who has been very upfront and strong on the importance of passing the property tax cap”. Brian thanked Governor Cuomo, Senator Skelos and Assemblyman Kolb on their leadership on the tax cap issue. He focused on the recent census data which indicated that 17 Upstate counties suffered a decline in population over the last decade – and with that population loss, came significant job losses. He echoed the call of the event’s speakers and insisted that the 2-percent tax cap bill be brought to the Assembly for an immediate vote.
The 2-percent tax cap bill, which would apply to all taxing districts in the state, proposes to:
- Limit the increase in property tax levies to 2 percent or the rate of inflation (whichever is less);
- Provide some limited exemptions from the property tax cap (extraordinary one-time expenditures, including some legal settlements and building projects, and for counties, it would exempt some state-mandated social service programs);
- Allow school district voters to override the cap with a 60 percent super-majority vote; and
- Allow other taxing districts to override the cap with 2/3 vote of their governing body.
The fact that Upstate and Downstate legislators from both sides of the aisle and a large collection of pro-tax cap organization gathered for this event demonstrates the importance of this issue. The simple truth is that rising property taxes impacts all New Yorkers – even residents who don’t even own property. The costs of property taxes incurred by businesses are passed on to consumers through higher prices for the products and services we purchase. Unfortunately, New York’s families and business owners have long paid some of the highest property taxes in the nation.
The facts and figures about New York’s property tax burden clearly indicate the need for immediate property tax relief:
- Property owners in New York State paid $48 billion in property taxes in 2010
- In 2009, the median property tax in New York was $3,755 – nearly double the national average.
- Of New York’s total energy taxes collected in 2009, $3.368 billion – or 59 percent – was paid in property taxes.
- In 2009, businesses across the state paid a staggering $21.9 billion in property taxes. This amount represents 39 percent of the business community’s total tax burden.
- According to a study from The Tax Foundation, New York had the second-highest combined state and local tax burden in fiscal year 2009 – New York’s overwhelming property tax burden is a significant piece of that puzzle.
By easing the burden of property taxes, we can provide homeowners with the opportunity to save a bigger share of their hard-earned paycheck and private-sector employers will be able reinvest in their businesses and create jobs.
The Senate passed Governor Cuomo’s program bill more than two months ago and now it’s essential that the Assembly follow suit and pass the 2-percent tax cap bill.