Cuomo doubles down on permanent property tax cap in state budget
ALBANY — The Democrat-controlled New York Legislature passed its spending plans for the next fiscal year on Wednesday, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo doubled down on his vow to refuse to sign a state budget that doesn’t make the 2 percent property tax permanent.
The Democrat told an audience at a community center in Hicksville on Long Island that there’s no way he’ll sign off on a new spending plan that doesn’t include a provision making the tax cap permanent.
“And I will tell you this as sure as I am before you today: if we do not have the permanent property tax cap in that state budget, this hand will never sign that state budget until it’s in there,” said Cuomo, speaking at a podium topped by a placard bearing the message “NO TAX CAP – NO DEAL!”
A permanent tax cap is part of Cuomo’s approximately $175 billion budget proposal. It’s also included in the budget resolutions passed Wednesday in the Senate, which proposed a $175.2 billion budget. But the Assembly, also controlled by Democrats, didn’t include the tax cap in its one-house budget bills, which the chamber also approved Wednesday. The Assembly’s budget proposal is $175.6 billion.
Cuomo and legislative leaders will now use the three individual budget proposals to try to reach a final budget agreement for the 2019-2020 state fiscal year by the April 1 deadline.
Cuomo said the 2 percent tax cap has saved New York property owners $25 billion since it was implemented in 2012. Later Wednesday during a speech at a union hall in Westchester, Cuomo referred to the issue as “my line in the sand” with the Legislature.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, noted that the tax cap, renewed by the Legislature in 2015, doesn’t expire until next year.
“We’ll get around to it,” he said during an interview Wednesday on public radio’s WCNY.
“We are committed to passing a budget that is on time, responsible and effective, and this resolution proves that point,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers.
Cuomo and top members of his administration have criticized lawmakers for proposing more spending than the governor. On Wednesday, the administration held a briefing for reporters on the state impact of a new federal budget proposal from Republican President Donald Trump, which officials say would cut billions of dollars in health care funding for the state.
Officials said the possibility of those cuts makes the legislative budgets even less practical.
“We need to move the conversation from fantasy land to reality,” said Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top adviser.
Here are some of the other critical budget items being debated in Albany:
LEGALIZED MARIJUANA: Cuomo had wanted the budget to include a provision legalizing recreational marijuana, and had proposed using a portion of new taxes on pot to fund transit improvements in New York City. While leaders of both chambers support legalization, Cuomo now says the issue won’t be handled in the budget. Administration officials say they’re hopeful that lawmakers could take up the matter separately before adjourning in June.
CONGESTION PRICING: Motorists still don’t know how much they’d pay to enter central Manhattan under Cuomo’s plan to impose new tolls as a way to raise money for New York City subways while also discouraging gridlock. The Senate’s budget plan embraces the idea, but says some of the revenue should go to suburban bus and train service too.
TAXES: In addition to making the property tax cap permanent, Cuomo wants to lower the tax rate for New Yorkers making more than $150,000 or $300,000. The Assembly wants to boost income taxes for people making more than $5 million. Cuomo and the Assembly want to create a new tax for owners of secondary homes in New York City valued at more than $5 million, with revenues allocated to the transit system. The Senate is against raising taxes on the rich.
EDUCATION: Cuomo and his fellow Democrats agree on increasing funding for education, though the legislative budget plans go further. In his January budget proposal, Cuomo called for a $1 billion increase for a total of $26.7 billion in school aid. The new budget plans from the Senate and Assembly would add $1.6 billion.
HEALTH CARE: The Assembly proposes restoring $550 million in Medicaid cuts included in Cuomo’s budget amendments. The Senate plan also restores some of the governor’s proposed cuts, including $3.8 million for school-based health clinics.