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EDITORIAL: Cuomo, the Tax Cap Crusader

Here we go again.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $2 billion tax relief proposal on Monday, Jan. 6, that sounds great on the surface, but could be a massive headache for local officials.

Cuomo’s plan would give property owners tax rebates for each of the next two years, as long as the towns and school districts they live in adhere to the 2 percent tax cap system that was put in place during his first year in office. If the town or school district exceed the tax cap – even if it’s in the interest of continuing to provide the same level of services they have been – then the rebates would be rescinded.

This puts more pressure on local officials to stay within the tax cap, which has been cited as the reason cities, towns and school districts have made cuts or consolidated their services. If they don’t adhere to the rules as laid down by Cuomo, their residents will be the ones feeling the pinch as their rebates are withheld.

This strikes us a heavy-handed solution that does little to address the oppressive tax burden this state has sadly become known for. In fact, it even could even punish those same taxpayers it is designed to provide “relief” to. It seems these days, the only ones getting any real tax relief are the companies Cuomo wants to invite to do business in the state tax free, a proposal he grandly rolled out in his State of the State address Wednesday, Jan. 8.

Basically, by putting some real teeth in the tax cap, Cuomo is dangling a carrot at the tip of a sword. If you want the carrot – in this case, your tax rebate – the jurisdiction you live in must find a way to cut its costs while not sacrificing its obligations. It doesn’t matter how the cities, towns or school districts stay within the tax cap, as long as they cap tax increases at 2 percent. They can consolidate or trim services, or they can lay off rank-and-file workers. Whatever it takes to make certain the residents get their tax rebates, which may not be that much in the long run, that’s what Cuomo expects to happen.

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