Cuomo: There will be money for property-tax cuts

ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo predicted Tuesday that the state will have a surplus next fiscal year, and he vowed to use the money for property-tax relief.

State budget figures this month estimated a $1.7 billion deficit for the fiscal year that starts April 1, but Cuomo said there "will be in essence a surplus for next year—if we hold the line on spending."

"We do have funds to do a tax cut," Cuomo added on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public radio show.

Cuomo hinted that he may seek to tie property taxes to incomes, known as a circuit breaker. Unions and liberal groups have long pushed for the program, saying that homeowners should be paying taxes based on their incomes, not what their homes are worth.

A circuit breaker program has come with an estimated price tag of $1 billion to $2 billion a year.

The state already has a STAR program that gives New Yorkers a break on their school property taxes, averaging about $700 a year for those who earn less than $500,000 a year.

Cuomo has a tax commission that expects to release its findings early next month on ways to trim New York's taxes.

The state has among the highest property taxes in the nation. Westchester County often ranks first in property taxes paid, while upstate counties, including Monroe County, rank among the highest in the nation in property taxes compared to household incomes.

"The property tax is a crusher, especially in the suburbs and upstate," Cuomo said.

"Obviously, everyone in New York State and everybody in Erie County knows we're paying a lot in property taxes. If all goes well, according to his numbers, he could pass that surplus on a state level down to the local municipalities and have our tax bill go down," says Georgetown Capital's Michael Curatolo.

In October, when the Governor launched one of two tax commissions, he called our property taxes "grossly unfair" and said "compared to the rest of the country they are a gross burden."

We do not know yet how much money you would save, but Curatolo says, "If you're paying $6,000 on your $200,000 valued home, who knows. Maybe you'll save a few hundred dollars with this trickle down surplus from Albany."

Curatolo sees decreases based on income as a less likely option.

"That would be very complicated, and there's already a big push back on that method," he says. "What it would accomplish is a person that's in a house that's appreciated and their income is on a fixed income, and if anything it's gone down from a few years ago, somehow the Governor wants to give them a break."

Politically though, Curatolo says cutting taxes is a good move for the Governor.

"And, what a coincidence it comes right around November 2014 when he's being re-elected," he says.

Cuomo will release his 2014-15 budget proposal in mid-January. Then the state Legislature has until March 31 to approve the spending plan. The current budget is about $136 billion.


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