August 16-17, 2008
Copyright © 2008
Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.
Property tax reform bill proposed at Ulster conference
NEW PALTZ – At a time when property owners are being squeezed at the pump and facing expensive winter heating bills, local efforts have been underway to change the way the communities and the state pay for education and its Medicaid obligations.
Frank Mauro, the executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, and Susan Zimet, an Ulster County legislator, announced the details of an Omnibus bill, to be forwarded to state Assembly and Senate leaders, at the Mohonk Mountain Friday, which would reform property taxes and help pay for other services, such as Medicaid.
“We favor to put in one bill tax relief in the short- term, and tax reform in the long-term,” said Mauro.
The bill supports the idea of a circuit breaker, which would trigger if your income is proportionally lower to the property taxes being paid.
“We’re saying the bracket should be the same upstate and downstate,” said Mauro. “Regardless of where you live, your property taxes should be based on your income.”
Kevin Cahill, an assemblyman from Ulster County, sat and listened before heading back to Albany, so state lawmakers can address the potential devastating heating oil bills facing state residents this winter. But he said he understands why tax reform is weighing heavily on some right now.
“We must address the property tax issues right away. We must address school funding immediately,” he said. “Survival is our number one obligation.”
The Omnibus bill put together by Mauro and Zimet also addresses how some poorer communities face taxing obligations such as Medicaid and the ability to pay municipal taxes
“In the long-term, we think you have to approach the property tax problems – but also about how the Medicaid burden places on county property taxes and the overburden that older cities and villages face,” said Mauro. “It’s not school taxes which are the big tax (in some communities).”
The bill seeks a commitment from the state from 2011-2020 to pay for $6 billion of local education costs, $1 billion of local Medicaid costs, $3 billion of local urban costs by providing greater revenue sharing.
Earlier this spring, Zimet chaired a committee that looked at the state’s unfunded mandates, such as how counties pay school districts for their defaulted property taxes and tax exemptions.
“We talked about unfunded mandates and getting relief from that,” she said. “We looked at tax exemptions and trying to get away from that situation.”
And those concerns over these issues were forwarded to the state in May to be reviewed by state lawmaker for in intent of any legislative reform.
Nancy Calhoun, an assemblywoman from Orange County, said she supports a half a percent increase in income taxes for those earning $500,000-a-year and a one percent income tax hike for making at least $1 million –a-year.
“I think it’s the right way to go,” she said.
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