ALBANY –- The State Senate’s top Democrat suggested today there may be some wiggle room in efforts to cap the annual growth of local property taxes.
Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, said there needs to be “a conversation’’ with stakeholders to determine if there is “a middle ground’’ on efforts to cap the taxes and start to control some state-imposed mandates that are driving up the costs for local governments, including school districts.
There has been talk, pushed by local governments, that any tax cap deal enacted this session needs to expand the number of “exemptions’’ –- possibly including the costs of some employee benefits –- to the cap on the annual property tax levy increase. Also, a plan to cap the annual growth at 2 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower, also could increase to a higher level if some groups have their way. The 2 percent ceiling has been backed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Senate, though lawmakers last week said Cuomo indicated in private talks he could be open to changes in his tax cap plan. The tax cap has not been approved by the Assembly, where Democrats are linking the issue to extension of a New York City rent control law.
A Siena College poll out this morning found 75 percent of registered voters want a 2 percent tax cap measure approved this year.
Sampson, meanwhile, believes going to an independent panel system to redraw legislative lines following the 2010 U.S. census –- instead of the longstanding redistricting process controlled by the Legislature -– will result in the Senate flipping control back from the Republicans to the Democrats in the 2012 elections.
“Will there be more seats in play? Yes. Will we pick up seats? Yes. And that is the fear that our colleagues across the aisle have because if the playing field is balanced, they believe that their majority will be in jeopardy,’’ Sampson said in a session with reporters today. The GOP controls the Senate by a 32-30 margin.
-- Tom Precious