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Tensions are high on property tax cap issue

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Governor Cuomo began his statewide tour to win backing for a property tax cap and other issues in Syracuse on Tuesday. Back at the State Capitol, tensions between pro tax cap and anti tax cap advocates erupted into heated arguments.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

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Cuomo told a crowd of around 300 at Onondaga Community College that property taxes are the “hidden taxes” on state citizens, and that many New York counties have among the highest property taxes in the nation.

“The answer is to cap the increase in property taxes,” Cuomo said.

While Cuomo stumped in Syracuse, some Republicans in the legislature organized a rally in favor of the governor’s two percent across the board property tax. The smaller group of pro tax cap advocates was confronted by greater numbers of anti tax cap backers, many of them members of the New York State United Teachers union.

“Tax the rich!” the anti tax cap supporters shouted.

Many of the NYSUT members were in town for a news conference to promote a tax circuit breaker instead. It would be based on a sliding scale tied to a taxpayers’ income.   

As soon as the rally ended, the confrontations began, as members from the two sides shouted and pointed fingers at each other.

The disagreements distilled down to this: impose more taxes on the rich, versus, cut the property taxes by imposing a cap. Joe Seeman, with MoveOn.org, advocates taxing the wealthy and the financial industry Tom Cavanagh, who heads the Upstate Conservative Coalition disagrees. 

“Let Wall Street pay, let the rich pay, real simple,” Seeman told Cavanagh.

“Do you know how many seniors have stock in Wall Street, that help them survive, help them get their drugs?” Cavanagh countered.

At times the discussion devolved.

“Blah blah blah,” Seeman taunted.

But, no punches were thrown. In the end, it did not seem like anyone was convinced, either. Cavanagh says he doesn’t think the other side was really listening.

“When you try to give them facts and figures they don’t want to hear about it,” Cavanaugh said.

Seeman says the two groups have more in common than they realize though- he says most of the protesters on both sides are not wealthy and are seeking some relief.

“If we had a circuit breaker, they would get tax relief and their children, their grandchildren, would not have their schools cut and their teachers cut,” Seeman said. 

Governor Cuomo has set June 20th as the deadline for the legislature to act on a property tax cap. The State Senate has already approved the governor’s plan, the Assembly is due to release an alternative soon.

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