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Hudson Valley Officials Respond to Cuomo's State-of-the-State

Tax relief should be accompanied by mandate relief, said business leader William Mooney Jr.

Photo courtesy Governor's Press Office
Photo courtesy Governor's Press Office
The governor's 2014 State of the State address contained hopeful signs of New York's return to economic health, but brought up a couple of troubling issues, local leaders said after Andrew Cuomo's Jan. 8 address to the state legislature.

"Governor Cuomo set forth an ambitious agenda in his fourth annual "State of the State" address today, including efforts to provide much-needed business and property tax relief and economic development incentives. We believe the Governor is headed in the right direction and hope that Westchester County can soon enjoy the fruits of his plan," said Westchester County Association President William M. Mooney, Jr.

Cuomo's call for relief for property, business and estate taxes in his annual  State of the State speech was appropriate given the state's first surplus in several years, said State Sen. Greg Ball (R,C-Patterson).

“We must be focused on the two things most important to New Yorkers, jobs and taxes. It is a breath of fresh air to hear that Governor Cuomo is focused on reforming our tax system to protect our seniors, small business owners, taxpayers, and working families," Ball said. "We have controlled spending, and in a very short period of time, we created a tax surplus. It is now time to pass those savings onto our residents by providing tax credits and cuts.” 

It's certainly needed locally, said Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains).

"Property tax relief, paired with the elimination of a utility surcharge and changes to the estate and business tax system, will help New York to become an increasingly attractive destination for residents and businesses alike," Buchwald said.

However, some expressed concerns.

"While I applaud Governor Cuomo's proposed property tax freeze, I question where the spending cuts will come from," said Ed Day, Rockland County's new county executive. "His speech included little mention of mandate relief, which is the most urgent problem facing county leaders and schools districts across the state.  Albany cannot continue a model that heaps the financial burden onto county governments.  If county leaders are required to keep budgets within the state-imposed cap on property tax increases, we must be certain the state will do the same thing.  I remain concerned that the Governor is pushing further property tax cuts without tangible plans for mandate relief."

Mooney agreed, saying, "the real driver of property tax increases are unfunded state mandates—pensions and health care coverage for NYS employees, for example—which can be as much as 85 cents of every property dollar collected in Westchester County. Without mandate relief, the governor's property tax proposal can only go so far."

Four Democratic members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL)—Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining), Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh), MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson) and Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers)—attended the governor's address to the legislature.

“The smart way to save money now for taxpayers is to look for ways to reduce the redundant delivery of services and programs across our communities,” said Jenkins. “In Westchester, we have been working hard to identify and implement ways to do this, and I appreciate knowing how important the Governor views this work.”

They also liked several other issues Cuomo brought up.

Cuomo’s continuing focus on critical infrastructure needs, like the new Tappan Zee bridge project, is helping to spur job creation as well, noted Borgia, the county board's new majority leader.

“Governor Cuomo’s grand vision for a better New York is only matched by his big heart for those residents in need and wanting to turn their lives around,” remarked Shimsky, noting that the governor’s address also promised job creation for former convicts to reduce recidivism and a renewed pledge to pass the Women’s Equality Act.

Employing new technologies in the classroom, fighting disparities in school resources and providing full-day Pre-Kindergarten statewide were initiatives mentioned in today’s address that “show our governor is serious about giving our youth the learning and support they need to better themselves—and our communities,” said Williams.

But Cuomo's education proposals did not deal with the current controversy over the state's standards and tracking for student achievement, Rockland Assemblyman Kenneth P. Zebrowski (D-New City) pointed out. 

"Although I share the Governor’s objective in investing in technology in our schools and improving the quality of education, we also need to address concerns surrounding the Common Core implementation," Zebrowski said.





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