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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Cuomo tax plan: Is it enough for LI?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during a press conference Wednesday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during a press conference Wednesday Jan. 14, 2015 at Hofstra University, announced a proposal to provide credits to homeowners and renters impacted by high property tax bills. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo came to Long Island Wednesday -- for the first time since he lost Suffolk County in his successful re-election run -- bearing a gift: a proposed tax credit for eligible households making less than $250,000 a year but paying more than 6 percent of that income in property taxes.

The plan is the latest in a series of state-sponsored nibbles around the edges of New York State's high-property-tax problem.

And while some welcomed a chance to get back a fraction of their hard-earned tax money, others -- including, notably, Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Center), majority leader of the State Senate -- were more cautious.

Skelos, in the second paragraph of a statement issued by his office, had this to say:

"While we look forward to discussing the specifics of Governor Cuomo's proposal when he unveils his entire Executive Budget, it is essential that any enacted property tax relief plan ensures all middle-income families in every region of the state receive property tax relief."

Could that mean that Skelos doesn't think Cuomo's proposal goes far enough for Long Islanders?

According the most recent U.S. Census estimates, the median annual household income in Nassau is $97,690, while in Suffolk, it's $87,763, making Long Island's median income higher than in most of New York State.

That would make Cuomo's proposal -- under which the most relief would go to the lowest income households -- available to about 35 percent of Long Island households.

That's also what figures released by the governor's office Wednesday seem to show.

According to a news release, upstate would have the highest number of potential beneficiaries, while Nassau and Suffolk would come in last among the five regions Cuomo listed.

Yes, the same figures show that Nassau and Suffolk households would receive the highest average relief in the state -- but that would go to just 332,417 households -- 207,250 in Nassau and 125,167 in Suffolk -- in a region of almost a million households.

There are other programs, as Skelos pointed out, that offer tax relief, including the STAR school property tax exemption.

There's also the New York State Property Tax Freeze Credit -- a three-year program that reimburses qualified homeowners for increases in local property taxes -- although many Suffolk residents have yet to receive checks.

The proposal released by Cuomo Wednesday -- like the property tax freeze credit -- is tied to a carrot and a stick: Taxing entities, from school districts to counties, would have to stay within the 2 percent property tax cap for residents to be eligible for tax credits.

Harried taxpayers most likely would welcome relief in whatever convoluted form it may take.

But really.

The major sources of New York's high property tax rate is no secret: Too many taxing entities and too many unfunded state mandates.

When will New York begin to deal with that?

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