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I think we are on the cusp of historic progress for this state.

State legislature now set to start passing bills

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The New York State legislature is apparently set to begin passing bills late Thursday to strengthen and extend New York City's rent laws, enact a 2 percent property tax cap for schools and local governments, and raise tuition at public colleges and universities.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Governor Cuomo, speaking after the initial deal was reached, said the first ever tax cap in New York State, combined with strengthened protections for tenants in New York City’s rent laws, are achievements that lawmakers can be proud of.

“I think we are on the cusp of historic progress for this state," Cuomo said.

Legislators worked through the day Wednesday with the Governor to hammer out remaining details. Senator Skelos, after a two hour meeting with Cuomo, said things were going “exceptionally well," and said he was “thrilled” with the tax cap deal.

Final details on the rent law renewal and mandate relief package were among the last elements to be hammered out.

While Cuomo and the leaders were touting the significance of the agreement, others were not as pleased.

Michael McKee, the leader of the tenants’ rights group Tenants and Neighbors, said the strengthening of protections for tenants claimed by Cuomo and the leaders is actually rather weak. Currently, if an apartment’s monthly rent reaches $2000, an amount set back in 1997, the unit can be decontrolled, and put back on the free market. The new legislation would increase that threshold to $2500, but McKee says when inflation and other factors are taken into account, the new threshold should be at least $3100, in order to prevent tens of thousands of apartments from being deregulated in the coming years.

“It’s a very bad deal,” McKee said. “It’s a major disappointment for tenants and it’s a blow to  anyone concerned about the preservation of affordable housing for the future.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had been seeking a new threshold of $3000 per month.

Under the deal, the current income limit of $175,000 a year for tenants who live in rent regulated apartments would be upped to $200,000. 

Governor Cuomo said the deal is far better than the last time the rent laws were renewed, when there were no changes to the vacancy decontrol and income thresholds.

“You can have an opinion but there are also facts,” Cuomo said, paraphrasing the late Senator Moynihan. “And the fact is this is a much better deal than the last arrangement that was reached on rent renewal.”

The extension of the rent laws and the property tax cap are still tied together in the deal. The rent laws sunset once again in four years, the property tax cap is also temporary, and will expire in five years. Under the agreement, lawmakers would have the option of extending both in four years.

The conservative think tank The Empire Center, in a blog entry, said a sunset date would render the cap ineffective, and “not worth the paper it’s printed on."

Groups who opposed the tax cap, including Ron Deutsch with the union-affiliated New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, believe it’s a gimmick that will eventually “come back to bite” lawmakers.

The first of the bills agreed to in the omnibus deal were to be printed Wednesday afternoon. One is a measure to permit public colleges to raise tuition by $300 a year for the next five years.

Students who receive financial aid would be exempt from the hikes.

The other is legislation to permit the siting of more power plants in New York.

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