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ALBANY -- The campaign of Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino Thursday accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of "property tax evasion."
The latest slam in a markedly nasty race centers around a local conflict involving the Westchester County home the Democratic governor shares with food TV star Sandra Lee. The Journal-News had previously reported that Lee may not have obtained the necessary building permits from local government for some interior renovation she spoke of in national interviews.
The Journal-News reported this week that a local tax assessor has increased the assessment 29 percent, raising the tax bill $8,200, to $36,500. The Journal-News said the assessed value of the house had been $936,000 and the new estimated value equals the $1.2 million market price Lee paid for it in 2008.
The assessor said he based the new taxable value on his view of the outside of the Lee-Cuomo home because he was denied access inside, the Journal-News said. Homeowners are not required to allow tax assessors into a home and few homeowners provide that permission.
Lee's spokesman didn't comment on whether the assessor was denied access, but said Lee is reviewing the new assessment. The governor's staff in Albany has said the interior work was decorative.
But Astorino campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud said Thursday, "We are directly suggesting that Andrew Cuomo hid renovations to his home in order to evade the higher property taxes he would have to pay if those renovations had been properly permitted, as is required of other citizens."
"We are further suggesting that the governor is intentionally barring home access to his town assessor to conceal the amount of work that was done," Proud said. "We are also accusing Governor Cuomo and his government staff of not telling the truth in press reports about the extent of work done in the home."
Asked at a press event Thursday about Astorino's claim that he was avoiding a higher property tax, Cuomo responded: "I have no response to that."
A reporter asked Cuomo what was in his basement, and whether it was a finished basement that could boost the property value.
"The last time I was there, nothing," Cuomo said. "Nothing in the basement."
Cuomo has called local property taxes the most onerous taxes facing New Yorkers and has made his actions to reduce property taxes a major aspect of his re-election campaign. Although Cuomo doesn't own a share of the house, he said he helps pay the property taxes.