State mulls tax cap ... again

Similarly, local governments have seen grant funding and state services drying up in past months, which when combined with rising costs left many with fiscal problems of their own. It's tough to find a town, city or school that didn't have a difficult discussion about cuts this past budget year.

"I am not supportive of mandates coming from government to other areas of government," said Bethlehem Supervisor Sam Messina, who went on to say it's the responsibility of local governments to manage their finances, not that of the state.

"That is not best achieved by anyone imposing anything on anyone else," he said. "To my way of thinking, the state of New York needs to look at its house and get that in order."

Unions representing teachers and state workers can also be counted on to rail against a cap whenever it's the topic of discussion.

For opponents of the cap, there may be some solace in the fact the legislature has been unable to pass such a measure despite it being a popular topic among voters.

Most recently, in 2008, both the Senate and Assembly passed relief measures, but neither materialized because the Senate passed a tax cap and the Assembly passed a circuit breaker law.

A "circuit breaker" works to limit the maximum amount of taxes one family could pay, based on income. New York already has a breaker in advanced STAR exemptions, but these are generally available only to the elderly.

A tax cap, on the other hand, directly limits the amount school districts can increase their budgets year-to-year, the idea being this would limit out-of-control tax hikes for taxpayers.

While today most everyone agrees something must be done, the reality is that, as in previous years, the end result may be considerably less than what was hoped for. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has voiced his opposition to the senate's tax cap, and has said it won't be brought to a vote in his chamber. He has said a restoration of school aid should be considered over a cap as a form of property tax relief.

In 1995, Silver introduced legislation that would hold tax levy increases to the annual rate of inflation. That "Real Property Tax Limitation Act" passed the Assembly but died in the Senate.""

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