Albany Showdown Looms Over Taxes

Battle expected over Gov. Cuomo's vow to cap property taxes

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new system for trying to attract jobs upstate and his plan to cap the growth of some of the nation's highest property taxes face their first challenge Monday by legislators in a budget hearing.
The debate on economic development and tax aspects of Cuomo's proposed 2011-12 budget is expected to include calls by some Assembly Democrats who feel more revenue is part of the answer to the state's fiscal crisis. Several Assembly

Democrats want to extend a temporary surcharge on income tax paid by New Yorkers making over $200,000 a year. The surcharge is scheduled to expire this year.
Cuomo has ruled out any new or higher broad-based taxes.

Influential business groups will also hold a press conference  Monday to try to push the Democrat-led Assembly to pass the Democratic governor's proposed 2-percent cap on annual increases in property taxes. The state Republican-led Senate passed the bill two weeks ago.
``Whether you're buying groceries or paying your electric bill,a portion of your money is gobbled up by property taxes,'' said Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate. ``In order to strengthen our competitive edge, revive our struggling economy and stimulate private sector job growth, we must enact a 2-percent property tax cap.''
Unshackle Upstate, the Business Council of New York State and representatives of independent businesses, farmers and the Association of Realtors are holding the press conference. They say 39 percent of all taxes paid by New York businesses in 2009 were property taxes.
The state's teachers unions oppose the cap that would hit school taxes the hardest. The New York State United Teachers unions argue that capping the local revenue source would force thousands of teacher layoffs at a time when Cuomo also proposes a historic cut in state school aid.
The key to the property tax proposal will be Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a lower Manhattan Democrat. He says he is open to a property tax cap, but hasn't said what specific provisions he would favor. At issue is settling the circumstances under which a school district could suspend the cap, such as when it has a big influx of students or loses a lawsuit. Cuomo's proposal allows voters in a school district to suspend the cap with a 60-percent vote margin.
Silver said he is concerned that schools would be put in a severe fiscal bind after a cut in school aid in the current fiscal year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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