ALBANY – The Legislature’s top Republican drew a line in the sand today, saying the 2011 legislative session will not end until a property tax cap bill is approved.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, in an interview at the Capitol, noted a threat today by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that lawmakers should plan to stay in Albany if they don’t pass a measure extending rent control laws for about one million apartments in New York City and some surrounding counties.
“The governor says we won’t go home without rent regulations. We won’t go home until we have a property tax cap," Skelos said.
Cuomo, Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced 24 days ago that they had reached a deal to control the annual rise in local property taxes at 2 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower. Under some circumstances, schools could be limited to zero growth.
But no final bill has yet to surface, as the cap has been tied to approval of a new rent control law for New York City.
Skelos said the tax cap is not in trouble, though the sides are still split over whether to have the cap law sunset in several years, making it more of a test program than a permanent statute.
Earlier, four of the state’s more influential labor leaders – the heads of the AFL-CIO, Civil Service Employees Association, Public Employees Federation and the New York State United Teachers – stood outside the Senate chamber and called on the Legislature to back away from the cap plan. They said it would lead to widespread service cuts affecting an array of residents.
“I think it’s important we let the greater public know that this is bad public policy," said Denis Hughes, president of the AFL-CIO. He called the cap a “scheme” and a “regressive tax."
On other matters, Skelos said no other Republican senators have flipped their position to support gay marriage rights. “Nobody has indicated any change other than undecided," he said after a meeting behind closed doors with senators and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a major donor to Senate GOP political causes over the years.
Still no where close to being resolved, Skelos said, is a plan to let the state university system raise its tuition on annual, predictable levels and a related public/private partnership deal helping the University at Buffalo proceed with its planned move of the medical school to downtown Buffalo.
-- Tom Precious