Senator Andrew Lanza today announced a plan to double the size of direct property tax rebate checks for senior citizen homeowners. The Senate is introducing a bill that would return about $200 million to senior citizens. Funds for the increased senior rebate checks would come from higher-than-projected State revenues realized at end of the 2006-07 state fiscal year.
"Many senior citizens throughout the State are living on fixed incomes and seeing their property tax bills rise every year," Senator Lanza said. "The Senate wants to double the size of property tax rebate checks for seniors to help them pay their school property taxes so they can afford to stay in their homes.
"The new State budget did not increase property tax rebates for seniors, but now that the final budget numbers are in for last year, it’s clear we have the resources available to give seniors greater tax relief," Senator Lanza said.
The Senate budget proposed tripling property tax rebate checks for all homeowners, including seniors. However, during budget negotiations, the Governor insisted that funds for rebate checks be reduced by $200 million and, as a result, senior citizens did not receive an increase in property tax rebates in the final budget. The adopted budget included $1.3 billion for additional property tax relief which doubled the size of rebate checks for the average homeowner, but not for seniors.
"It is essential that we use the additional revenue and avails we have from last year to provide the property tax relief to our senior citizens that they need and deserve," said Senator Lanza. "This legislation would ensure that seniors receiving enhanced STAR will receive rebate checks that are twice the amount they received last year -- as is the case with most other homeowners."
The State closed out the 2006-07 fiscal year with $431 million more in tax collections than was estimated in the SFY 2007-08 Executive Budget that was released January 31, 2007. This was $331 million more than the $100 million in additional revenues agreed to in the consensus forecast on March 5, 2007. The Senate Finance Committee’s February estimate of total tax collections for the 2006-07 fiscal year was on target, far closer than the estimates of the Division of the Budget and the Assembly. These additional funds would be used to increase property tax rebate checks for senior citizens.
In his Executive Budget, the Governor proposed a total of $1.5 billion for property tax relief through an expansion of the STAR program. The additional $200 million in property tax relief being proposed by the Senate would bring total property tax relief up to the number originally proposed in the Executive Budget.