Before serving in the New York State Senate, I was a small business owner, homeowner and a village trustee. Faced with the challenge of a continual rise in property taxes and the cost of living and doing business and frustrated with the lack of action from the status quo in Albany, I decided to run for office.
Since then, I’ve been focused on finding solutions to the problems faced by so many Hudson Valley residents who are trying to remain in their homes and keep their businesses in their communities.
Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax commission released a report that presents some short-term fixes to deliver tax relief. While I’m supportive of many of the commission’s recommendations, we must take greater steps to deliver solutions for the meaningful, long-term relief that New York families and businesses need.
The commission’s report recommends a “circuit-breaker” accompanied with tax freeze that would incentivize local governments to consolidate services and reduce property taxes. I support consolidating services to reduce spending, but this approach doesn’t address the largest financial burden faced by local governments — unfunded mandates.
For decades New York has required local municipalities to spend major portions of their revenue on programs that are mandated by the state, often forcing them to raise taxes to cover the costs of local services and infrastructure. While many of Albany’s ideas are worthwhile, it’s unfair to expect local governments to carry the burden of paying for them.
Relief from these unfunded mandates would allow local municipalities to use their revenue to pay for the services they were elected to provide and to invest in long-term property tax relief.
To address this issue, I’ve introduced a bipartisan unfunded mandate package that would deliver the financial relief needed to lower property taxes. First, the County Payment Relief Act (CPR), S.5996, would provide state aid for counties to use in paying for existing unfunded mandates, with aid given based on the number of residents in the county. This legislation would deliver approximately $6 million in relief to Dutchess County, and $2 million to Putnam.
The second bill, S.6001, would directly address the large unfunded mandate of early intervention programs, which provide crucial services to families throughout the state. This legislation would create a grant pool of $400 million for which counties would be eligible to apply to cover the cost of these programs, potentially saving counties millions while maintaining these important services. The final piece of the package would amend the New York State Constitution, prohibiting the state from imposing new unfunded mandates on local governments without providing the proper funding.
Additionally, I’m pleased that the commission has recommended that New York expedite the compromised phase-out of the 18-A utility surcharge. During last year’s budget process, I advocated for a complete repeal of this regressive tax. It’s time for New York State to stop taxing businesses and families for turning on their lights. Eliminating this tax will provide much needed relief to families and businesses currently in New York and will help encourage others to start businesses in our state.
I commend the commission for starting the conversation about property tax relief, and I challenge New York State to reach further for the sake of its economic future.