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Cuomo renews call for local governments to share services

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seen in Albany

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seen in Albany on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, said Monday that he'd continue a "shared services" panel that compels local governments to study ways to make savings. Photo Credit: Tim Roske

ALBANY — With Congress nearing approval of a tax plan that could end up costing some New Yorkers money, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday renewed a call for local governments to share services to cut costs.

The governor, in a conference call with reporters, refrained from saying whether he’d favor more dramatic steps, such as cutting school aid or freezing overall spending. He said there still too many uncertainties over the plan in Washington and he’d reveal his state budget proposal in mid January.

Cuomo also continued his harsh criticism of the Republican-driven tax plan, saying it will spark a “real political comeuppance” for its backers. Among other elements, the plan would limit New Yorkers ability to deduct the amount they pay in state, local and property taxes to $10,000. Some analysts have said that could impact house values.

As part of a response, Cuomo said he’d continue a “shared services” panel that compels local governments to study ways to make savings and earmark $225 million in state funds to match homegrown proposals.

“It’s time to take the shared services panel to the next level,” the governor said, noting this would be one of his proposals in the 2018 State of the State address, slated for Jan. 3.

But that money represents a small number in a state where the budget now routinely tops $160 billion and won’t have much impact, a tax watchdog said.

“Symbolic and unimpressive,” E.J. McMahon, of the Empire Center, an Albany-based fiscally conservative think tank, said in an email. “The savings were minimal drops in the bucket and it won’t get much better than here. Our taxes aren’t high because of local government duplication, overlap, or failure to share services. In fact, they are high mainly because salaries and staffing levels are high, especially in school districts and downstate suburban police departments.”

Earlier this year, the shared services panel said it identified $280 million in cost savings. But reports noted many of the proposals were aspirational and/or spread out over several years.

Cuomo, as he has done before, bashed the federal tax proposal as a “gross injustice” that will hurt taxpayers in California and the Northeast to the benefit of low-tax states — which generally support Republicans. He contended Republicans — especially in New York — will pay a political price.

“I think people are going to remember this because it doesn’t go away,” Cuomo said. “You will remember it when you get your property tax bill. You will remember it in April . . . You will remember when your ability to deduct your mortgage goes down. You’ll remember it when you can’t sell your house.”

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