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One way or the other, we will have a vehicle to clean up Albany.

Legislature faces major issues as session winds up

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The New York State legislature returned Wednesday after a week's absence. Lawmakers have just over a week of workdays left to tackle issues ranging from a property tax cap to allowing gay marriage. Karen DeWitt reports on some of those major issues.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

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Before the long Memorial Day weekend break, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced a conceptual agreement on a 2 percent property tax cap.  But no final bill has emerged yet, and groups who are against the cap have already begun to lobby.

Some state lawmakers are on their side. Assemblyman Steve Englebright, a Long Island Democrat, said the cap does not take into account unexpected costs, like extra snow removal in a heavy winter, and steep spikes in gas prices.

“People won’t have clear streets to try to get to work,” Englebright said. “The school districts may not be able to put gas into the school buses.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, of Rockland County, said New York’s schools now rank 8th in the nation. She said with limited revenues, that standing could slip and school programs could suffer. She said in California, which has long limited property taxes, some parents had to pay to hire an art teacher for their children, and in New Jersey students are charged a fee to play sports.  

“We’re forgetting about the unintended consequences,” Jaffee said.

Governor Cuomo said there is progress on a final tax cap deal with the legislature, but no agreement yet. Cuomo said he understands the anti tax cap advocates’ concerns, but he said  “we don’t have an endless pot of money”.

“Somebody pays that money, it’s called the tax payer of New York," said Cuomo. “They count, too. And I represent them.”

The tax cap deal is linked by the governor and legislative leaders to extending New York City’s rent laws. Both are to have periodic expiration dates that will occur on the same day, in the same year.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who, along with Cuomo, is seeking to strengthen the rent regulations to further protect tenants, said he’s “confident” that there will be agreement with the Senate before the session ends, but there’s no deal yet.

“There haven’t been any breakthroughs,” Silver said.

Cuomo said he is also seeking major ethics reform, including an independent body with greater investigatory powers to police the legislature. He said an accord is close, but not finalized, and he warns that either way, he will achieve ethics reform. He said if he has to, he’ll use a Moreland Act commission to probe corruption in the legislature if there’s no law passed.

“One way or the other, we will have a vehicle to clean up Albany," said Cuomo.

Advocates for gay marriage continued to lobby, as news reports indicate that eight key State Senators are now undecided on legalizing same sex marriage. The Pride Agenda’s Ross Levi was joined at the Capitol by union leaders.

“We’re in a good place,” Levi said.

Cuomo has made gay marriage, along with the tax cap and ethics reform, his top three priorities, and he said “D-Day” for those and other concerns, like rent law reform, is June 20th, the final scheduled day of the legislative session.

Cuomo said he's not worried yet, he says it's "human nature" to wait until the last minute to make decisions.

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