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State lawmakers tout property tax rebate

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shown in

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shown in a photo taken on June 11, 2015 in New York. Credit: AP / Bebeto Matthews

ALBANY -- State lawmakers Tuesday promised New York homeowners a property tax rebate that will arrive in the mail before the 2016 elections, but provided almost no other details.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders, who announced the rebates as part of a deal to close down this year's legislative session, said the reimbursements will total $1.3 billion statewide, and that household income will be a factor in determining individual amounts. Legislators said plans call for checks to be sent out by September 2016.

It remained unclear who will be eligible and how the state will offset the revenue loss in the budget.

Nonetheless, lawmakers touted the rebate plan as a victory for homeowners in a high-tax state. "The tax rebate is real money to real people again," Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said. "That's something that I think people are clamoring for."

But one fiscal watchdog called it a "gimmick" that won't bring significant tax relief.

"The governor and legislature are more intent on creating an illusion on property tax than using that money to create a more competitive tax code," said E.J. McMahon, head of the Empire Center, an Albany-based, anti-tax think tank. "People aren't dumb. They don't get a check in September and say 'Wow, my taxes are lower.' "

McMahon noted the state once had a property tax rebate that was discontinued after the 2008 stock market meltdown.

Senate Republicans have pushed to re-create that program. Democrats and Cuomo had wanted any tax relief to include household income as a factor.

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