ALBANY — State Assembly Democrats voiced skepticism Wednesday about the price tag of a Senate proposal to compensate Nassau County homeowners who see their taxes rise under a new property reassessment program.
Some members of Nassau’s Assembly delegation indicated they weren’t given a heads-up on the initiative until reading about it in Newsday. The idea would give a tax credit to partly offset tax hikes triggered by the countywide reassessment and ensure that no homeowner would pay the full hike for eight years. It was done at the urging of Long Island lawmakers in the Senate and was tucked into a budget plan unveiled a day earlier by Senate Democrats.
“I’ve had an opportunity to discuss the concept preliminarily with most members of our delegation and we will give this earnest consideration,” said Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), dean of the delegation. “I am, however, aware this involves spending hundreds of millions of dollars, which will be no easy task in a year when state revenues are down $3 billion.”
Under the Senate plan, qualifying homeowners would be able to claim a tax credit to offset any tax increases implemented in the first year of what is expected to be a phase-in for new assessments of residential properties. Over the next seven years, the tax credit would continue, but at gradually decreasing rates. Homeowners with more than $500,000 annual income wouldn’t be eligible.
The bottom line of the program, backers said, is that a Nassau homeowner who would be facing, say, a $4,000 tax-bill hike during the first year of the reassessment wouldn’t be paying the full increase until the eighth year of the program.
Senate officials estimated the overall cost at more than $200 million in state funds. Nassau County would have to opt into the program and contribute nearly $70 million through sales tax it collects. The state would spend $3 for every $1 the county contributes. To become law, the plan would have to be included in a state budget the Assembly, Senate and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo are trying to adopt by April 1.
The price tag had some Assembly members hesitating, though not ruling out anything. They huddled informally Wednesday about the proposal.
“My general thought was: Wow, that’s a lot of money,” said Assemb. Taylor Raynor (D-Hempstead). She said the five Assembly Democrats from Nassau were reviewing the idea.
“It’s news to us. I’m surprised because I wasn’t expecting it,” said Assemb. Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre). “So it’s up to us to dig in and see how this would help taxpayers.”
On a related note, Assembly Democrats said there appeared to be consensus on approving County Executive Laura Curran’s request for legislation to phase in the property-tax hikes triggered by the reassessment over five years. The two houses and the governor all have included the legislation in their competing budget proposals.
“The five-year (phase-in) looks acceptable,” Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) said. She didn’t express support or opposition to the Senate’s proposal for a tax credit, but said she was “happy we’re having a discussion about tax relief for homeowners.”
Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), one of the tax credit supporters, called the plan a “wise investment.” He said the $200 million or so spent over the seven years would be a small fraction of the $1 trillion the state will spend as a whole over that time period.