Governor Asks Public to Lobby for Property Tax Freeze

By Genevieve Belmaker, Epoch Times
February 26, 2014 Updated: February 27, 2014

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to get New York state residents to help his bid to cut property taxes. On Wednesday, Cuomo announced his “No Excuses” campaign.

He is asking the public to help campaign for his proposal to freeze property taxes for two years, and give tax relief according to individual homeowners’ ability to pay.

The plan also includes measures to incentivize local governments to share services and ease the financial burden of property taxes. According to the governor’s office, New York state has three out of the four counties with the highest property taxes in the country.

Among the state’s 10,500 municipal villages, towns, and cities, many have tax overlaps. Other entities such as water, sewer, and lighting districts also exist. In Erie County, which has the most local governments in the state, 1,044 local governments take an annual tax levy of $1.6 billion.

The governor’s office estimates the two-year plan would create about $1 billion in tax relief in 2015–2016.

In order to achieve that, in the first year local governments would have to stay within a property tax cap for residents to be eligible for a tax freeze. That would mean a tax rebate for homeowners with an income of $500,000 or less in a jurisdiction that stays within the 2 percent property tax cap. In the second year, local governments would have to consolidate and share services, and reduce costs in order to retain the freeze.

Residents of New York City, not subject to the property tax cap, are ineligible for the freeze credit.

Cuomo’s plan also includes a so-called circuit breaker property tax measure to protect 2 million low- and middle-income taxpayers. Those with household incomes of up to $200,000 would pay a property tax rate relative to their ability to pay.

The Pitch

Cuomo originally outlined the plan in his January State of the State speech, and later in his executive budget presentation. But Wednesday’s entreaty to the public included the launch of a governor’s office website dedicated to getting the measure approved by the state Legislature.

The site appeals to the public to help lobby for the cuts by downloading flyers, contacting elected officials, and getting other state residents to get involved. Visitors to the site can also use its features to share a pitch for the campaign.

“NY property taxes are too high—we capped them, now let’s cut them,” reads the pre-written message, which includes a link to a flier.

There is opposition to Cuomo’s plan, though. Critics said it targets people with more expensive homes and gives towns and cities reasons to cut services, according to a report by Capitol Confidential, a blog on state politics. The blog also reports that state Assembly members Patricia Fahy and Phil Steck, both Democrats, are not fully on board with the plan.

A representative for Fahy told Epoch Times Wednesday that she does agree with the property tax “circuit breaker.”