Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders as they announced a...

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders as they announced a state budget deal at the Capitol in Albany. (March 27, 2011) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- The second half of the state legislative session tipped off Monday and already lawmakers say it is clear what issues will dominate the agenda: a property tax cap, rent-control regulations, ethics laws, pensions and gay marriage.

At the same time, lawmakers are looking at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to advance a prison closure plan and a more detailed mandate-relief proposal and to negotiate state-worker contracts -- and/or layoffs. They also want to work with the governor to launch regional "economic development councils." Some Republicans say they will push for a rollback of the MTA payroll tax. Some Democrats will try to revive the so-called millionaires' tax.

It's a full agenda, with the property-tax cap and rent control leading the way, rank-and-file legislators said.

"The tax cap is something that has got to get a lot of discussion," said Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst). "And rent-control is at the top of the list for a significant number of" Assembly Democrats.

Rent-control regulations on thousands of apartments in New York City (and a smaller number in Nassau County) expire in June and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has said renewal of the law is one of his top priorities.

Silver and Cuomo had attempted to lump rent control and a property-tax cap into negotiations over the $132.5 billion state budget. But Cuomo relented because, he said, closing the budget deal with such additional items became unwieldy.

Cuomo and Silver say they want to expand the law to cover more apartments, but Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has said expansion is "inappropriate."

Though no one will come right out and say rent control won't be passed without a property-tax cap, lawmakers acknowledge the two issues are related. "I think support for the tax cap, at least back in my district, seems to be getting stronger," said Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

The GOP-led Senate passed a Cuomo-backed bill earlier this year to limit property-tax increases to 2 percent or the inflation rate, unless overridden by local voters with at least a 60 percent majority. The move was widely seen as putting pressure on the Democrat-led Assembly.

In a bit of tit-for-tat, the Assembly put pressure on the Republicans when it said it agrees with Cuomo on the outline of an ethics law that would force lawmakers to disclose more about their outside incomes.

Some Republicans also have said that a tax cap must go hand-in-hand with mandate relief for local governments and schools. Cuomo's "mandate relief task force" earlier this year released a plan that was widely panned for its lack of detail. Even Cuomo's fellow Democrat, Senate Minority Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), called it a "complete clunker."

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