Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Manhattan on Feb. 14, 2019.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in Manhattan on Feb. 14, 2019. Credit: AP / Seth Wenig

The middle class is the backbone of our nation — built on the premise that in return for hard work, prosperity and financial security are achievable. But the middle class is increasingly falling behind under the pressure of rising costs and stagnant wages. It is hard out there and we know it.

Now, our middle class faces a new and unexpected threat: the federal government. The Trump administration has tried to take away health care by dismantling the Affordable Care Act; it has undermined the organized labor movement that helped build the middle class; and it has put New York’s communities and environment at risk with regressive policies like potential offshore drilling around Long Island.

The most significant economic threat to New York is the cap on state and local tax deductions. While President Donald Trump promised a tax cut for the middle class, the capping of SALT deductions goes in the opposite direction — hurting about 530,000 taxpayers on Long Island, or more than a third of its taxpayers. It is an egregious act of partisanship that targets Democratic states to pay for tax cuts in Republican states, and it is particularly shameful that Republican representatives from Long Island failed to stand up for their constituents.

The administration’s policies make the state’s 2 percent cap on local property taxes even more critical for New York, where the property tax burden is more than two-and-a-half times the typical state income tax burden.

In 2011, after years of trying to rein in out-of-control property taxes — Govs. George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David A. Paterson all tried — we passed the first local property tax cap. The 2 percent property tax cap changed long-term trends, and saved New Yorkers nearly $25 billion. On Long Island, it has saved taxpayers $8.7 billion, with the typical Nassau taxpayer saving $7,611 and the typical Suffolk taxpayer saving $6,284.

By every measure the tax cap has been a success, but that success is not guaranteed if it does not remain in place.

That’s why in this year’s budget I call on the State Legislature to make the 2 percent property tax cap permanent. I will not sign a budget that does not include a permanent tax cap.

Our middle class simply cannot sustain a return to the days of skyrocketing property taxes, especially in the face of the challenges and uncertainty emanating from Washington. So let’s cap it for today. And keep it for tomorrow.

And let’s not stop there.

Let’s cut the income tax rate once again for middle-class New Yorkers. And let’s fight SALT until the federal government rolls back this devastating assault on our state and its taxpayers.

In New York, we have not forgotten the middle class and we stand with middle-class families more than ever in the face of the federal assault. Since I took office, we have prioritized groundbreaking initiatives and investments to lift up hard-working families and reduce obstacles to prosperity.

We have made too much progress to turn back now. It’s time that the State Legislature enshrines the 2 percent local property tax cap — a fundamental principle of fiscal responsibility — so that we can send a message loud and clear to the middle class that says New York is on their side.

 Andrew M. Cuomo is governor of New York State.

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