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Senate prepares alternative to Cuomo's planned property tax freeze

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Senate prepares alternative to Cuomo's planned property tax freeze
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- The state Senate’s one-house budget proposal will present an alternative to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to freeze property taxes, state Sen. Tom Libous said in an interview.

“I expect there to be a property tax proposal to be in the one-house budget,” Libous said. “I think you’ll find it a little different than what the governor has. Right now, we’re still drafting up the language for the one-house budget bills. We have the resolution that will be going in, but bill language is always the details.”

Libous, R-Binghamton, declined to offer specifics on what the Senate plan will entail.

But he did say the proposal is coming in part because Cuomo’s tax free plan “has been a little bit of a problem for local governments.”

“I think they’re just concerned as to the way the governor proposed it that it’s going to really pin them down and cause a lack of services and at the end of the day we have to make sure services flow,” Libous said.

Cuomo’s $142 billion budget plan includes a proposal that would grant property taxpayers what amounts to a two-year “freeze” on local property tax increase.

Under the plan, local governments would have to budget within the 2 percent tax cap in the first year and then find ways to share services in the second. Taxpayers would receive a check that gives them the difference in any increase during that period.

The plan, which is voluntary for local governments to participate in, essentially gives property taxpayers the carrot of the freeze and a stick to encourage local officials to manage their budgets.

Cuomo has been pushing hard for the plan, airing downstate and upstate TV ads in support of the proposal.

In a radio interview last week, Cuomo indicated the opposition to the tax freeze was coming from local government officials who don’t want to make the hard choices on their own local spending plans.

Senate Democrats in a letter to majority coalition leaders Sens. Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein urged them to reject the tax freeze.

Libous said he expected language on the one-house budget bill by either Tuesday or Wednesday this week.

At the same time, Libous does not expect more funding than proposed by Cuomo for universal pre-Kindergarten in the Senate version of the budget, nor does he expect public financing of political campaigns to be included.

“Right now, I can’t support that sort of proposal,” he said of public financing. “I’m not excited about a public financing proposal.”

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