ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo appeared with local officials Monday to promote his property tax reform plan as "the major issue" in state budget negotiations as lawmakers began public discussions on the fiscal plan.
The actions kicked off an intense two-week stretch as Cuomo and legislators try to agree on a budget deal by the April 1 deadline.
Amid high-profile disagreements at the Capitol over how to fund pre-kindergarten expansion and whether to protect charter schools, Cuomo held a news conference to keep the focus on his budget proposal to give property tax rebates to homeowners in jurisdictions that meet strict spending limits through consolidating or sharing services.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
(AP file photo)
Cuomo sees the plan as a way to force local officials to reduce bureaucracies that drive up property taxes.
"If you want to make a fundamental difference, reform the property taxes, because that's where the money is," Cuomo said.
State lawmakers agree on the need for property tax relief in this election year. But Democrats in charge of the Assembly have rejected Cuomo's plan in favor of a proposed "circuit breaker" for people whose housing costs take up a large share of their salary.
"We shouldn't make some people's benefits contingent on some local elected official," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters as the Legislature began a series of two-house committee meetings on the budget.
A number of local officials from around the state have criticized the governor's plan as too onerous and complicated. Many say they have already worked to share local services.
Cuomo implicitly rebuked the local criticism by flanking himself with local officials at his news conference, including three county executives: Edward Mangano of Nassau, Mike Hein of Ulster and Daniel McCoy of Albany. Cuomo said that as of Monday, he had the support of more than 150 local elected officials.
"It's not easy," Hein said of the governor's proposal. "It's contentious. But it's never been more important."