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Pushback from legislators to freeze on local property taxes

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Pushback from legislators to freeze on local property taxes
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ALBANY, N.Y. — Lawmakers in both parties are pushing back against Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to create a freeze on local property tax increases. The ruling majority coalition in the state Senate plans to introduce an alternative proposal to Cuomo's property tax plan this week.

"I expect a property tax proposal to be in the one-house budget. I think you'll find it to be a little bit different than what the governor has," said state Sen. Tom Libous, R-Binghamton.

Details of the Senate proposal weren't immediately available, but the break with Cuomo on the property tax freeze comes after local government officials and organized labor both opposed the plan.

"It has been a little bit of a problem for local governments. I think they're concerned as to the way the governor has proposed that it's going to really pin them down and cause a lack of services," Libous said.

One-house budgets aren't binding documents. They're simply roadmaps for the Assembly and Senate to lay out their agenda as budget negotiations take shape.

Democrats, meanwhile, are also uneasy with the proposal.

"It's so complex that we don't believe very many homeowners would see anything from that program," said state Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan.

Senate Democrats urged leaders in the chamber to reject the tax freeze and include a circuit-breaker plan instead. Under that plan, property tax increases are tied to an household's income.

"One of them we support – circuit breaker. One of them we don't support – the tax freeze, complicated system," Krueger said.

Cuomo is lobbying hard for his tax freeze. Under Cuomo's plan, local governments must first limit levy increases at two percent and then find ways to share services in order to provide homeowners with a rebate check that amounts to a zero increase in taxes over those years.

In a statement, Cuomo's top aide Larry Schwartz defended the tax proposal saying:

“It’s clear that some local officials don’t want to be held accountable by taxpayers for staying within the cap and taking action to share services, reduce costs, and lower property taxes. Under the governor’s plan, local governments and schools will be responsible for taking the right steps to get their fiscal houses in order, much like the state has already done.”

The $142 billion budget plan is due April 1.

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