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Senate proposes tax cuts despite Cuomo’s dire fiscal warning

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan at a news

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan at a news conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Albany. Credit: Hans Pennink

ALBANY — The Senate’s Republican majority on Tuesday called for an array of tax breaks from helping middle-class homeowners to doubling an incentive to keep retired New Yorkers from leaving for Florida and other states.

But in a year of a projected $4 billion deficit and $2 billion in lost federal aid, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said may make 2018 “the toughest year New York has faced in modern history,” the Senate Republicans offered no specific funding streams to the pay for their tax cut proposals in this election year. If the whole package was adopted, the cost to the state budget would be more than $500 million spread over as many as 10 years.

Instead, Republicans said they would phase in the cuts and pay for them by looking at every other line in the line budget for cuts.

“We still think it is tough to live in New York,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport). “I think we can pay this for by doing things the right way.”

He wouldn’t elaborate. The Senate will release its budget proposal with its priorities after Cuomo proposes his 2018-19 budget — expected to exceed $163 billion — on Jan. 16.

Previously, Flanagan has targeted some of Cuomo’s multibillion-dollar economic development programs, including $420 million in tax breaks to film and TV productions in exchange for often short-term jobs created in New York.

The Senate majority proposed:

  • A 25 percent increase in property tax rebate checks begun in 2015 to provide a state subsidy to reduce school tax bills.
  • Freezing school taxes for seniors and eliminating school taxes for retirees over 10 years to keep more retired New Yorkers from spending their retirement in other states.
  • Eliminating the 2 percent gross receipts tax on utility bills.
  • Doubling the tax exemption for pension income.

“Hardworking families simply cannot thrive in New York’s high tax environment,” said Greg Biryla, executive director of the tax watchdog Unshackle Upstate. “In fact, more than a million New Yorkers have fled the state since 2010 in search of jobs and lower taxes.”

Senate Democrats, however, said the Republicans’ “claim that they care about tax relief rings hollow,” said Democratic spokesman Michael Murphy. “New York State taxes and mandates have grown out of control during the over 50 years of Republican-domination in the state Senate.

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