Governor Cuomo is visiting the Syracuse area today to tout his top-down, one-size-fits-all plan to send rebate checks of up to 2 percent of our property taxes for a couple of years – but only if we follow his complicated new state mandates.
A better way to cut property taxes would be for the state to pay for its mandates and let us, through our local governments, decide how much to cut property taxes and how much to fund our schools and services.
Under Cuomo's proposal, a municipality must cap property tax hikes at 2 percent the first year, and in the second year also enact a consolidation plan, in order for homeowners in that municipality get rebate checks of up to 2 percent of their property tax bill for the next two years only.
Each local government has its own unique needs and fiscal circumstances. Cuomo doesn't trust us to make our own decisions about our municipal and school budgets and property tax levies.
We pay state income and sales taxes. The state should should give more of those revenues back to local governments by restoring unrestricted state revenue sharing. State revenue sharing is now less than 1 percent of state revenues. If it was restored to the 8 percent standard incorporated into the state Finance Law between 1979 and 2009, local governments would have the resources to both cut property taxes and restore full funding for schools and services.
The reason we have the highest property taxes in the nation is that New York State has repeatedly cut revenue sharing in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich and to balance the state budget in recessions. Instead of trying to force more cuts to local schools and services with his new mandates, Cuomo should cut the fat in state government and use the savings to restore revenue sharing.
The fat is easy to find in tax breaks for the rich. It includes the $15 billion a year in Stock Transfer Tax revenues that are 100 percent rebated to the traders on Wall Street. It includes $7 billion a year in corporate welfare subsidies that a study commissioned by Cuomo's own Pataki-McCall tax commission found has created no net gain in jobs. Sharing 8 percent of state revenues would cost an additional $5 billion over the $715 million Cuomo has budgeted for it. Just some of the fat cats' fat tax breaks would cover the cost.