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Sen. Brooks proposes school tax change; GOP calls it empty promise

State Sen. John Brooks at a re-election rally

State Sen. John Brooks at a re-election rally at the Roosevelt American Legion on May 20. Credit: John Roca

ALBANY — Sen. John Brooks is proposing the state pick up a bigger share of school costs in districts where property taxes account for more than half of revenue.

Senate Republicans call it an empty promise. They are backing Massapequa Park Mayor Jeff Pravato against Brooks (D-Seaford) in what will be one of several Long Island races that will help determine control of the state Senate.

Brooks wants to cap the extent to which school district budgets can be paid for by property taxes at 50 percent. Under his proposal, if property taxes count for, say, 60 percent of a district’s revenue, the tax levy would be reduced and state aid increased to make up the difference.

The Democrat says the plan would save taxpayers an annual $2 billion statewide — and $1.3 billion on Long Island. However, he doesn’t outline how the state would either increase revenue or cut costs to pay for the program.

Asked how the state would offset the costs, Democrat spokesman Gary Ginsburg said lawmakers would have to find efficiencies and savings elsewhere in the state budget.

In order to prevent a district from inflating spending in order to trigger more state financial aid, the amount any school could receive would be based on the previous year’s state aid, the spokesman added.

Brooks says the plan would offset a federal tax hit some Long Islanders will suffer next year because of a new limit ($10,000) on the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted. Reducing school taxes would reduce the chances of exceeding the federal cap signed into law by President Donald Trump.

“Now, under the Trump/Republican tax plan, we are going to have an even greater hardships because our . . . deductions are being slashed,” Brooks said in a statement. “That’s why I introduced my tax relief plan, and I urge my colleagues to pass it immediately and give Long Island taxpayers the support they deserve.”

Senate Republicans noted that Democrats raised taxes in 2009 — amid the national recession — when they last controlled the chamber.

“It doesn’t really matter what John Brooks says, because when push comes to shove everyone knows he’ll side with the New York City politicians who make up the vast majority of his [Democratic] conference and vote to raise taxes on hardworking Nassau and Suffolk County taxpayers,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif. He pointed out that Republicans controlled the Senate when the state’s property-tax cap was approved.

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