Written by Senator Jack Martins Friday, 15 July 2011 00:00
Taxes have been the key issue on Long Island for as long I can remember. Whether you were attending a school board meeting, shopping for a new home, or even speaking with neighbors in a local deli, the subject would invariably turn to our skyrocketing taxes. Usually, it was accompanied by much hand wringing and a chorus of resignation that “things would never change.”
Well, here’s some good news. Things just changed.
On June 30, I gathered with my colleagues from the New York State Senate as Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the tax cap bill into law right here on Long Island. We were symbolically one of his first stops for good reason.
New York is widely recognized as one of the most heavily taxed states in the union and Nassau County recently reclaimed the infamous title for highest property taxes in the state. Make no mistake about it, we know all about runaway taxes. That’s why the signing of this bill was not only an historic moment for our state but for all our local communities.
The new tax cap law limits the increase in property taxes each year for school districts and local municipalities to just 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. If a community seeks to increase taxes by more than that, it would need a supermajority vote: 60 percent in a public school budget vote or a 60 percent vote by the local legislative body to override it.
As chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Local Government, I was also able to ensure that mandate relief measures accompanied the tax cap. This means we were able to relax and even eliminate certain requirements imposed by the state that were driving up our local taxes.
Schools and municipalities will now have more control of their budgets and the flexibility needed to meet the tax cap. While the new law provides $127 million in direct relief from state mandates, it more importantly creates the Mandate Relief Council which will identify and repeal unsound laws and regulations going forward, resulting in even greater local tax savings.
This has been a complex undertaking but one that was desperately needed. In the last decade, New Yorkers have seen their property taxes increase at twice the rate of inflation, an astonishing 73 percent. Yet lawmakers never got serious about addressing the single most important issue facing our communities.
Unfortunately, it was simply easier to ask taxpayers to dig deeper into their pockets, time and again. Consequently, we lost countless neighbors and family members to other parts of the country. Our seniors on fixed incomes were forced to leave the communities they helped build while young people just starting out fled to other states, creating the well-known “brain drain” that now challenges Long Island business.
That’s behind us now. The tax cap is truly the culmination of a landmark legislative session that saw the Senate and Governor working together to foster economic growth and make New York the “Empire State” once more.
I thank you for allowing me to be a part of that.