While Mayor-Elect Bill De Blasio is talking about raising taxes to pay for universal pre-kindergarten, the conversation at the state level is about reducing taxes. Governor Andrew Cuomo received recommendations from his tax commission and its conclusions focus solely on lowering the tax burden. Zack Fink filed the following report.
WESTBURY, N.Y. - Heading into his re-election year, Governor Andrew Cuomo chose the swing district of Nassau County on Long Island to formally accept the recommendations of his hand-picked tax commission.
Former Governor George Pataki, who served on the commission, also wanted to address income taxes, but Governor Cuomo kept the focus primarily on property taxes.
"Our property taxes are disproportionate nationwide. Long island, the Northern suburbs, Westchester, Rockland, you’re paying some of the highest property taxes in the United States of America,” Cuomo said.
There are more than 10,000 governments in New York State, which drive property taxes up.
"The municipalities, our local governments, our school districts, all of the various levels of government have to find ways of working together, sharing services and finding ways of reducing the kind of burden that has been imposed on our citizens,” said Carl McCall, a member of the tax commission.
The commission also recommends reducing the estate tax from 16 to 10 percent, raising the exemption from $1 million to $5.25 million, which is in line with the federal exemption, and reducing the corporate tax rate to 6.5 percent, the lowest since 1968. It also recommends further reducing that rate to 2.5 percent for upstate manufacturers.
Any tax cutting would need approval by the legislature. Senate Republicans say the plan doesn't go far enough, Assembly Democrats say tax cuts need to be balanced against their priorities, which include mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's plan for universal pre-K.
"Democrats represent taxpayers too, right? You have homeowners in the suburbs and you have renters in New York City and this package would have a renter's credit with it,” Cuomo said.
Critics on the left say this is the wrong time for more tax cuts.
"I am concerned about economic fairness. At a time when New York has the worst income inequality in the country, I am not sure we should be cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires,” said Michael Kink of Strong Economy For All.
While property taxes affect homeowners throughout the state including parts of New York City, this initiative is likely aimed at suburban and upstate voters where Governor Cuomo's poll numbers have been weakest.