Senate Passes Cuomo’s Property-Tax Cap

 

The New York Times

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to limit local property taxes won overwhelming approval from the State Senate on Monday, escalating the pressure on Democratic legislators in the Assembly who have expressed reservations about the bill.

The Senate voted 45 to 17 in favor of the cap, which Mr. Cuomo had declared his top campaign priority, after an hour of discussion. Thirteen of the 30 Democrats joined all 32 Republicans in passing the bill.

“This measure will provide a real reprieve to homeowners who are struggling to make ends meet,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement after the vote. “I, along with countless New Yorkers, look forward to this cap becoming a reality, as taxpayers across the state cannot afford to wait any longer for relief.”

The Senate’s approval was not a surprise, since the chamber had passed legislation to limit property taxes both last year, when Democrats held the majority, and in 2008, when Republicans were in charge.

The Assembly has not taken up similar measures in recent years. But the speedy passage puts Mr. Cuomo in a better position to try to persuade the Assembly to follow the Senate’s lead this year. Some senators were explicit about that.

Senator David J. Valesky, a Democrat from Syracuse, said he hoped “this is the year that I and the 19.5 million New Yorkers can finally thank the Assembly for doing the right thing” and passing the bill, too.

Mr. Valesky was one of many senators to rise, one after another, from their chairs on the Senate floor to bemoan the fiscal strain that high property taxes had inflicted on New Yorkers. Several of them credited Mr. Cuomo for making the bill — which limits the increase in property taxes to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower — his first legislative priority.

But the discussion on Monday was not entirely positive. Some senators raised concerns about the effectiveness of capping property taxes, questioning the relief it would provide to people with lower incomes.

Others criticized the unusually swift consideration of the bill, which was introduced late Friday night with no public announcement to allow for passage before Mr. Cuomo unveils his executive budget on Tuesday.

“We are here today voting on a lengthy, complex piece of legislation after being given the least amount of time possible to review it and consider its impact,” said Senator José R. Peralta, a Democrat from Queens. “My question is simple: Why?”

The Assembly received no advance warning that Mr. Cuomo planned to bring the bill to the Legislature on Friday. Some Assembly Democrats took that as an affront — or at least a sign that Mr. Cuomo’s legislative choreography was meant to coerce the Assembly to address the matter sooner rather than later.

That bit of strategy on the governor’s part was also more than implied on Monday.

“When he talks about his budget tomorrow, he can say, ‘We have achieved the No. 1 priority that I have set for this budget and for this state,’ ” said Senator William J. Larkin Jr., a Republican from the Hudson Valley. “And he’ll commend all of us who did stand up and vote for it.”

A few hours before the Senate vote, the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, affirmed his support for limiting property taxes, but not necessarily with the exact language used in Mr. Cuomo’s bill.

“I believe we will come to a common ground with the governor and the Senate on an appropriate property tax cap,” Speaker Silver said.

Asked for his opinion on Mr. Cuomo’s bill, the speaker said he had not yet read it.

by Thomas Kaplan

Danny Hakim contributed reporting.

Publication date: 
Monday, January 31, 2011 - 00:00