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Praise and criticism for a property tax cap in New York

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo's proposal for a two percent cap on property tax increases next year is drawing both praise and criticism. After a week of attacks opposing a cap from advocacy groups representing the state's mayors and local school districts, business groups are now weighing in with their support.

The Business Council of New York says a property tax cap is essential to improve the state's competitiveness. Spokesman Michael Moran says calls for a "circuit breaker" that would link tax relief to income is nothing but a gimmick.

"We had something that was like the circuit breaker. It was called the STAR program. It targeted older people, giving them property tax relief. But what it did was shift the tax burden onto other property taxpayers," Moran said. "Spending kept going up by twice the rate of inflation."

But John Whitely of the state's Property Tax Reform Coalition argues a property tax cap only limits the increase in the overall tax levy and does not protect individual taxpayers from huge increases.

"The tax cap isn't really relief because it doesn't reduce the taxes of individual taxpayers," Whitely said. "It's not reform because it does not make any structural changes. It just puts on an arbitrary number of the amount you can increase your spending."

Whitely says he knows of some retired homeowners who are paying 47 percent of their income on property taxes. He said a circuit breaker would prevent that from happening.

The Business Council believes any cap proposal from Cuomo would be combined with structural reforms that would provide mandate relief to lower the cost of government.