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State GOP senators propose tax cuts

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said the

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said the tax, known as the "18-a" surcharge, was imposed on utilities in 2009 in the aftermath of a stock market meltdown. Credit: Steve Jacobs, 2010

ALBANY -- As state budget negotiations begin in earnest, Senate Republicans unveiled a new tax-cut package Monday that would restore property-tax rebate checks for homeowners.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) wants to revive the "STAR" (School Tax Relief) rebate checks program, which would provide an average $445 check to every homeowner in the state. The program was eliminated in 2009 when the state faced a fiscal crunch after the stock market meltdown. It is separate from the STAR assessment reduction that many homeowners still enjoy.

The GOP plan also would increase tax credits for children and child care, as well as for other dependents. Skelos said the package, combined with an earlier GOP call to eliminate certain utility taxes, would cost more than $2 billion. Asked how the state would pay for it, Skelos pointed to $2.5 billion in discretionary spending he says Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed in the budget.

"This will be part of our negotiations with the governor and Assembly," Skelos said. "This is our priority."

Cuomo met with legislative leaders Monday afternoon but no agreements were reached. The governor said there was "wiggle room" in the budget for various proposals. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has called for using some discretionary money for restoring New York City education aid and Cuomo's proposed cuts to programs for the developmentally disabled.

The state budget deadline is April 1. But because of the Legislature's scheduled recess to accommodate the Easter and Passover break, lawmakers are aiming to finish by March 21.


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