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Governor signs tax cap, again

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Governor Andrew Cuomo has been traveling the state, holding ceremonial bill signings for his property tax cap. The governor was in Buffalo yesterday and will be in Rochester today.

But not everyone thinks the cap is a good idea, and the state's largest teachers union predicts the measure will backfire. Karen DeWitt has more.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

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Governor Cuomo signed his property tax cap bill for the third time in recent days, this time at a ceremony in suburban Buffalo, before selected homeowners and assembled government officials. He said the 2% a year tax cap is “a reality, finally” after languishing in state government for decades.

“We’re going to make it a reality for every homeowner in this state,” Cuomo said to audience applause.

Cuomo chided opponents who have said the cap is too limiting and will result in service reductions, saying, everyone has to do more with less, and accusing governments of using local taxpayers as their “ultimate ATM machine”.

“The answer for government has been too easy: just spend more money, and raise more taxes and government can always put their hand in the pocket of the taxpayer to take out more money,“ said Cuomo. “Those days are over.”

Tim Kremer, with the State School Boards Association, says, actually, the problem is money. He said the tax cap, combined with reduced school aid, will leave schools with an $800 million dollar deficit.

The school boards association is disappointed with an accompanying mandate relief bill, saying there are not enough changes to save significant money.

Supporters of the tax cap have expressed hope that the hard cap may force mandate relief, including union concessions that will help schools trim their budgets.

Carl Korn, a spokesman for New York State United Teachers, said just the opposite will happen. He predicts a backlash among parents once they learn what the cap actually means, especially he said, following several years of state aid cuts.

“We think this tax cap will have a devastating effect on public schools,” said Korn, who says already 11,000 teachers statewide face lays offs. He said many costs are rising beyond schools’ control, like the ever-increasing price of diesel fuel.

“It’s going to lock in inequities,” Korn said.

Korn says poorer schools will be hit harder, because wealthier districts may be the only ones able to muster the 60% voter majority that’s needed to override the cap.

The cap expires in five years and the legislature will have a chance to evaluate its impact. Korn said people may want to overturn it before then.

Cuomo maintains that the recent rate of property tax increases, between six and eight percent annually, are forcing some New Yorkers out of their homes. "Those level of increases are just not sustainable," Cuomo said.

Cuomo suggests schools find savings by firing administrators, which he calls part of a massive management bureaucracy.

 

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