Last Friday night (6/24/11), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the state’s first ever property tax cap, one of the biggest legislative priorities of his administration. As Citizens for Tax Justice noted even before its final passage, however, the new property cap is one of the most extreme in the nation and widely viewed as ill-advised.
The cap limits annual growth in property tax revenues to 2 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower, with comparatively strict limits on exceptions to the cap: chiefly, state pension system increases above 2 percent of payroll. Voters in a given locality could also override the cap by a 60 percent vote.
Considering that property taxes are rising at about 5 percent annually, the cap will force dramatic cuts in local education, medical, and public safety services.
Many advocates argue that the enactment of a similar property tax cap in Massachusetts proves that it will not hurt the quality of education or local services, but the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has thoroughly debunked this claim, showing how the cap has been disastrous in Massachusetts.
Compounding this, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI), New York’s cap is actually much worse than the one in Massachusetts considering that it’s 60 percent stricter in terms of reducing revenues, and, is not coupled with significant additional state funding to local governments.
Even if Cuomo’s goal is just to help low and middle income families with relief from rising property taxes, the FPI explains that a much more effective and less costly approach would be to enhance the state’s property tax circuit breaker.
Calling the tax cap “a cap on student achievement, especially for the poorest school districts” Karen Scharff, the Executive Director of Citizen Action New York points out that in reality the property tax cap is just “one more fake Albany quick fix.”