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Tax cap hangs in balance as Legislature eyes end of session

ALBANY -– The Democratic Assembly leader today said there would be no cap on local property tax growth unless New York City rent control laws are strengthened in the favor of tenants.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, made clear while heading into a closed door conference with fellow lawmakers that his house will not approve just a straight extender of current rent control laws.

Asked if the cap on local property taxes has a chance if existing rent laws are simply extended as-is, Silver said, "No."

But Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, was optimistic the sides will reach just such a deal.

Rent control laws for New York City and several downstate suburbs expire Wednesday, and they have become linked at the negotiating table at the Capitol as the Legislature seeks to wrap up its 2011 session possibly as early as Friday.

"I just think at some point the Speaker is going to see the wisdom of rent control being extended and a property tax cap without a sunset," Skelos told a handful of reporters as he headed into session this afternoon.

Outside the governor’s office one floor below, a couple hundred protestors have been chanting this afternoon seeking to bolster the rent laws.

Silver has said the property tax cap -– affecting upstate and New York City suburban residents –- and the rent laws are linked because they affect the housing costs of both renters and homeowners.

A Siena College poll this morning found the tax cap the number one issue -– cited by 37 percent of respondents –- of all the major issues remaining under discussion at the Capitol.

Also in trouble is a push by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to legalize gay marriages in New York. Reports of more than a half-dozen Senate Republicans willing to give yes votes to gay marriage were dismissed by the individual Senate Republicans this afternoon as they came out of a private conference.

Later this afternoon, though, Cuomo said he believes there will be enough votes to pass the measure. Three Senate Democrats who opposed the measure in 2009 announced they were reversing course and now back gay marriage rights.

Negotiators are also discussing a tuition hike for the state university system. But a plan introduced last week by Cuomo was already in trouble in the Assembly, which is run by his fellow Democrats. Cuomo proposed a 5 percent per year increase for SUNY campuses, except an 8 percent hike for the University at Buffalo and the other three campus centers at Stony Brook, Albany and Binghamton. Cuomo would also hold harmless those students -- who represent a small minority of those enrolled at SUNY -– eligible for the full Tuition Assistance Program grant of $5,000.

"The conference doesn’t like differential tuition and they think it’s rather high and we’re not clear how all TAP students are taken care of under the [Cuomo] plan," Silver said this afternoon.

--Tom Precious

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |