Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a campaign Wednesday, Feb. 26 to push for tax cuts, touting the slogan, "We capped them, now let's cut them." North Country leaders are mixed on his plan to accomplish that.
A new website, www.cutpropertytaxes.ny.gov, was created to give information about the governor's plan and promote his agenda.
In January at the Executive Budget presentation, Cuomo outlined his plan to freeze property taxes for two years and create a "circuit breaker" that will provide partial property tax reimbursements based on homeowners' ability to pay; qualifying incomes are $500,000 and below.
The catch for local governments is that in order for homeowners to get their tax credits, school districts and local municipalities must stay within the tax cap and, in the second year, develop plans for consolidating or sharing services with neighboring governments.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, a Republican from Peru, said local governments that have already shared would not be rewarded and may be penalized if they can't consolidate more.
"I cannot support the proposal as written," Duprey said. "You can only consolidate so much. Our towns have done a lot of shared services. We've always done that a lot in the North Country."
Dan MacEntee, communication director for state Sen. Betty Little, said she is in favor of property tax cuts but also had concerns about the bill.
"She's advocated for the circuit breaker in the past," MacEntee said. "But one of her concerns she has is with the freeze being tied to consolidation and shared service."
MacEntee, too, said many local governments have already done consolidation in the recent past and won't get rewarded.
Statements of support for tax cuts from elected officials and advocacy groups are listed on the governor's new website. Some local officials on the list in support of the plan include Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabiideau; Randy Douglas, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors and Bill Ferebee, the county board vice chairman.
"It is refreshing to have a Governor that consistently lays out budget priorities that push New York forward," Ferebee wrote. "After decades of late and irresponsible budgets, Governor Cuomo has put forth a plan that continues to provide relief for the middle class and working families, while rebuilding our infrastructure and continuing to invest in education."
Cuomo said New Yorkers should pick up the phones and call their representatives to make their voices heard on tax cuts.
"High property taxes have been the number one burden on New York's families and businesses," he wrote in a press release. "Right after I took office we capped property taxes to stop skyrocketing hikes that were driving people from this state. Now we need to lower property taxes and we need your help to do it."
New York's property taxes are one of the highest in the nation with an average residential bill of $5,040, according to Cuomo's press release. If the governor's plan is fully implemented, it will provide $1 billion in tax relief. He plans to pay for the plan with an expected budget surplus.
Assemblyman Dan Stec could not be immediately reached for comment.