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Ethics reform and tax cap--check. Same-sex marriage--not yet.

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Governor Cuomo has achieved agreements on two of the three issues he's made a top priority, ethics reform and a tax cap, and is continuing to push to allow same sex marriages in New York. But as Karen DeWitt reports, no laws have been enacted yet, and at least one of the three issues may be in danger of falling apart.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Cuomo and legislative leaders announced a sweeping agreement on ethics reform and released a bill. Two weeks ago, they announced a deal to enact a property tax cap, with fanfare, but no legislation has yet emerged and lawmakers are once again on break until June 13th.

“This agreement is a big deal,” Cuomo said at the time of the agreement.

The governor said the tax cap is a measure that the public, at least outside of New York City, is demanding, telling him, “I just can’t afford to stay in my home anymore."

Property taxes are not as big a concern for New York City residents, but the city’s rent regulations, which affect hundreds of thousands of tenants, are a worry.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents lower Manhattan, secured in the deal a promise that a tax cap would be linked to the extensions and strengthening of the rent regulations. Under the deal, both policies would have a periodic expiration date, and the dates would coincide, so that rent laws and the property tax cap would be forever linked.

“The philosophies are the same,” Silver said. “It’s keeping people in their homes.”

Even at the agreement announcement in late May, Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos offered only conditional support, and in recent days seems to be backing away from the tenet that the tax cap should periodically have to be renewed, or ended. Skelos said he doesn’t agree with an expiration date.

“I think it’s wrong,” said Skelos.

Senator Skelos said if there’s an expiration date, it defeats the purpose of providing stability for businesses who may want to locate in the state.

Speaker Silver maintains that without the linked expiration dates between the tax cap and the rent laws, there is no deal.

Groups for and against the tax cap continue to lobby, as the remaining session time dwindles to just six working days.

Billy Easton, with the pro school funding group Alliance for Quality Education, says the tax cap will mean that voters in richer districts will be able to override the cap, if they wish, by mustering a required 60% vote, but poorer schools will not, and the disparities between education services for children will grow.

“It will increase inequity in our public schools,” said Easton, who also complains that the 60% supermajority needed to override the cap is “undemocratic”.

Brian Sampson is with Unshackle Upstate, one of the pro-business groups in the coalition the Committee to Save New York, which has been raising funds and running ads to back Cuomo’s tax cap proposal.

Sampson refutes AQE’s claims, saying New York spends more per capita, $18,126, on students than any other state, yet students are falling behind on test scores. Sampson says he thinks the tax cap will finally come together in the remaining days of the session.

“We think it’s going to get done, we’re still very confident,” said Sampson. “We just need to continue to push it along.”

New York City’s rent regulations expire on June 15th. If the tax cap deal is to be implemented, both issues would need to be worked out by then.

The fate of the third issue that Cuomo has listed as a priority, gay marriage, is still undetermined. The governor and his allies have been working to try to convince wavering Senators to approve it.

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