Hypo Venture Capital Headlines:Analysis: Celebration of NY's tax cap a bit early

Top Quote Tuesday's big announcement of a long-sought agreement to cap property tax growth in New York was great politics, but soon after the TV lights faded it became clearer the celebration was premature because major elements continue to be negotiated behind closed doors. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) October 04, 2011 - The Assembly's powerful leader wants the cap to include a sunset provision, a date when it would have to be reviewed and either extended, changed or allowed to expire. The current bill doesn't have specific sunset language and tax cap supporters like it that way. They don't want it threatened by legislative gridlock or inaction every time it comes up for review.
    Two days after the press conference that was staged as a victory lap for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his biggest policy priority, one the proposal's supporters warned that New Yorkers may be snared in a "bait and switch."

    Cuomo announced a three-way deal to cap property tax growth at 2 percent a year, or inflation, whichever is less. Beside him were Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, along with the minority party leaders and a throng of supportive business groups.

    The result was front-page coverage that the deal was done in what one headline called a "home run" in the closing three weeks of the legislative session. For Cuomo and Skelos, the tax cap is a top campaign issue. Silver has agreed to it as long as it's linked it to one of his top priorities, strengthening rent control for a million New York City renters.

    Silver's bill, released to lawmakers just hours before the press conference, is the basis of the tax cap agreement. The last lines of the 20-page bill say the tax cap would be in effect "only so long as" the New York City rent control laws, which have been extended repeatedly since 1946. The next extension is needed by June 15.

    Skelos specifically said in a prepared statement after the murky press conference that the sunset provision isn't part of the agreement announced Tuesday.

    "There's a long way to go before a final bill is passed," Skelos said to two reporters in a hallway after the press conference.
    E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute, who Cuomo singled out as a supporter Tuesday, said Thursday that a sunset provision would be a serious change.

    "If they change that bill in any respect, especially in regards to a sunset, it isn't worthy of support," McMahon. "If they do it, they are guilty of a bait and switch."

    Meanwhile, pressure is mounting.

    The powerful New York State United Teachers is making the case that if the cap was in effect this year, two-thirds of budgets would have been rejected. NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi warns a cap will devastate schools for political expediency and hit poor districts harder. He also said a district that fails to get 60-percent approval of a budget that exceeds the cap will be left with no tax increase, unless they try again, creating what NYSUT calls a "zero cap."

    On Thursday, The New York Times also rejected Silver's proposal, calling it a recipe for a California-sized disaster for schools and a "political crutch for politicians who don't have the courage to argue the case for more taxes or for spending cuts."
    Even Cuomo in the days after the press conference struck a less certain stance.

    "In Albany, nothing's done until done, but this would be an historic step," Cuomo said at a Utica event Wednesday to continue to push for his policy goals. "We're keeping our fingers crossed."

    On WOR-Radio's "The John Gambling Show" Thursday Cuomo noted of Albany: "There are no guarantees."

    Cuomo, Skelos and Silver won't discuss progress in private talks, but continue to promise a tax cap law by the June 20 end of session.

    Silver has said the sunset is needed to make sure the cap is working without decimating instruction or local government services. He told the New York Post "the contemplation is it will have a specific date in it."

    Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto insisted only "minor items" are unfinished and said "we are not going to negotiate in the press." He refused to confirm or deny whether a sunset provision is among the "minor items." He bristled at the thought of any serious snag or opposition, insisting that even McMahon still supports it.

    "The Associated Press' notion of an 'erosion' of support for the tax cap is wishful thinking on their part and the Albany special interests they report on," Vlasto stated. "The opposite is actually true as the cap is supported by 70 percent of the people of this state, most editorial boards, and the Senate and Assembly leaders and it will be made law at which time we expect a full retraction from The Associated Press."

    Cuomo, who once opposed making the tax cap temporary and decried Albany horse trading of important issues late in the session, also warned of such Albany antics before:

    "In this town, people are very good at talking about agreements, making progress towards agreements," Cuomo chided the Legislature during March budget talks. "They're very good at tiptoeing along the goal line, but never stepping over If you don't have an agreement then basically you have nothing."

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