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Cuomo gets creative to find MTA funds

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo outlined a plan to

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo outlined a plan to legalize marijuana in 2019 during his state budget address, but has since conceded the issue would have to wait for individual legislative action. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Daily Point

Real Estate is the new fare box

One way or another, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants money from real estate to help fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

But it might not come from a fee that’s become known as a pied-à-terre tax – an annual tax on high-end secondary homes in New York City – as has been proposed.

Cuomo said Tuesday that he was “committed” to a high-end real estate tax and that its revenue would be directed to the MTA. But he added that a pied-a-terre tax isn’t the only option.

“It could be a transfer tax. It could be an annual tax,” Cuomo told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. “We need the tax. I think it’s justifiable.”

The problem, sources told The Point, is that an annual tax on certain properties based on valuation could further complicate an already complicated New York City property tax system, particularly in terms of how the valuation of co-ops is calculated. Values of some properties are based on income potential, not on sales value, making the whole process tricky, state sources told The Point.

As an alternative, state officials are looking to go more simply – likely in the form of an increase in the real estate transfer tax, at the time of the real estate purchase, still geared toward high-end residential properties, likely those above $5 million. That would be a one-time fee -- rather than an annual one -- but lawmakers and state officials would have to figure out how to raise the same amount (they’re hoping for about $500 million a year), and how to make sure it’s going to be a reliable, sustainable funding stream.

Despite rumors that it would apply to all areas serviced by the MTA, including Long Island, state officials told The Point said such a tax would apply only to New York City properties. While the goal of any form of pied-à terre tax is not to tax primary residences, it’s difficult to prevent people from gaming the system to get around paying the fee.

So as the countdown clock for the budget gets more ominous, state officials are busily examining best practices from around the world, to see what’s done in other places.  And they’re doing a lot of number crunching to see what gets them at least a half-billion dollars a year.

As a result, all details, like with so much else during the last week of budget season, are still to be determined.

Randi F. Marshall

Talking Point

CD1 2.0

Some Democratic activists attended a meeting at Tweed’s Restaurant in Riverhead on Friday to discuss prospective candidates for the 1st Congressional District other than Perry Gershon who wants another shot at Lee Zeldin.

Jim Morgo, a former Suffolk County legislator and deputy Suffolk County executive who more recently co-founded an Indivisible group, says attendees discussed their hope that Gershon "doesn't put away the field" again after losing to Rep. Lee Zeldin by some 4 percent in 2018.

Morgo has been vocal in the past about the Gershon campaign’s shortcomings in what turned out to be a wave year and says Democrats should look for qualities like deeper Long Island backgrounds, military or law enforcement service and ability to win in a place like Brookhaven. Gershon was lacking on those fronts.

The ghost of a two-time loser in CD1, Republican candidate Randy Altschuler, loomed large, with some discussion at the meeting about the downsides of someone with thin ties to the district. (Gershon registered to vote in Suffolk County in 2017).

Bryan Erwin, executive director of the Democratic super PAC Taking Action Suffolk County, says he was at the meeting but his organization is not going to involve itself in a primary.

Erwin said he is “looking forward to a robust and competitive primary with a number of candidates and a good exchange of ideas and political energy.”

Potential non-Gershon candidates discussed at the meeting were Suffolk County Legis. Bridget Fleming, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, and Jack Harrington, a lawyer and former candidate for Brookhaven town supervisor.

Fleming told The Point her “current focus” is on the position she holds. Schneiderman said it’s “not something at the moment I’m considering.” And an email to Harrington prompted an out-of-office message: “I am currently on military leave overseas without access to email. I will not return to the office until mid-2019.”

The Point has learned that other possible candidates being contacted by Democratic figures both locally and nationally include former Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko; Errol Toulon, currently the Suffolk sheriff; and John Feal, a veteran and head of the FealGood Foundation, which advocates for 9/11 survivors and victims. Jack Martilotta, a Greenport high school football coach, has also been floated. And Dave Calone, the venture capitalist who narrowly lost a primary to Anna Throne-Holst, the 2016 Democratic candidate against Zeldin, also is considering the race.

As for Gershon: the East Hampton businessman said he’ll decide on a second run in early April and pointed to his close finish to Zeldin when asked about criticisms of his performance.

He also noted that both George Hochbrueckner and Otis Pike lost before they won in CD1 -- as did Zeldin.

Mark Chiusano and Rita Ciolli

Pencil Point

Tough to swallow

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Data Point

Struggling on Long Island

More than 30 percent of Long Islanders with jobs are still struggling to pay their rent and put food on the table. That’s according to the latest United Way report. For more details, click here.

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