Cuomo touts tax cap during LI visit

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the New York State

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the New York State Democratic Committee Spring meeting at the Sheraton Hotel. (May 19, 2011) (Credit: James Carbone)

Two days after Long Island voters approved all but five school budgets, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Thursday said districts cut spending because of his call for a 2 percent cap on property-tax increases.

Speaking to reporters after a speech to Democrats at the Sheraton Long Island Hotel in Hauppauge, Cuomo rejected suggestions by school district leaders and teachers union officials that voters, by approving 119 out of 124 budgets, rejected the governor's tax-cap plan.

"I think it's just the opposite," Cuomo said. "I think what you're seeing is that the school districts are getting it. You can't just keep raising taxes."

Across Long Island, staff cuts and concessions produced budget increases that for the next school year average less than the 2.3 percent inflation rate.

Cuomo's tax cap would kick in during the 2012-13 school year; construction costs and legal settlements would be exempt.

The Republican-led State Senate has passed the governor's bill. The Assembly has promised to introduce its own version soon. Led by Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), the Democrat-controlled Assembly is trying to tie passage of a tax cap to renewal of New York City rent regulations, which expire next month.

Senate Republicans from Long Island held a news conference Thursday in Bayport to call on the Assembly to pass a cap.

Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said Silver "has made it clear that acting on the governor's property tax cap bill is not a priority in his house." Silver countered: "From day one I have said that the Assembly will support a property tax cap."

In a speech before about 120 people on the State Democratic Committee, Cuomo repeated his call to legalize same-sex marriage and touted his proposal to tighten ethics laws.

Cuomo's comments drew frequent applause -- including when he said the Democrats' image was changing for the better. "Remember, it took a Democrat to get Osama bin Laden," Cuomo said.

That drew criticism from Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who said later Cuomo's comment "was totally inappropriate. . . . The fact is we were able to get bin Laden because of the Bush administration and the Obama administration. I never looked at it as a partisan issue."

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