Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued his campaign Monday to get the Legislature to support his plan to freeze property taxes for two years and push local governments to share services.

Cuomo has faced increased skepticism from lawmakers and local governments over his $1 billion-a-year proposal to provide a rebate to property taxpayers if their schools and local governments abide by the tax cap and cut their tax levy.

But Cuomo said the effort is needed. New York has among the highest property taxes in the nation.

“There has been no virtually no organized, consistent convening of jurisdictions to go through a vigorous exercise to come up with shared services,” Cuomo said at a news conference Monday, where he announced 150 local governments officials have signed on to his proposal.

The Senate and Assembly have offered different versions of Cuomo’s proposal as the sides move toward a budget deal before the 2014-15 fiscal year starts April 1. The Assembly wants to simply give the rebate check without any requirements on local governments; the Senate wants any consolidation efforts since 2012 to count toward the eligibility for the rebate.

But Cuomo said that the tax freeze is meaningless if it’s not tied to long-term savings. The tax cap limits the growth in property taxes to 2 percent a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This year, it’s 1.6 percent.

“The point is to first recognize the problem. We have too many governments,” Cuomo said. “Point two is to get them to start to work together in a way they haven’t done thus far.”

Cuomo was joined at the Capitol press conference by three county executives: Ulster’s Mike Hein and Albany’s Dan McCoy, both Democrats, and Nassau’s Edward Mangano, a Republican. Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, a Republican, also signed onto the proposal.

“I stand shoulder to shoulder with him in his fight to lower property taxes,” Hein said.

Cuomo has said that New York has 10,500 local governments, saying it is unsustainable.

Critics have challenged Cuomo’s math. U.S. Census data shows that New York has about 3,450 local governments, and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli puts the total at about 3,800.

Cuomo is including thousands of special taxing districts, such as ones for lighting and sewer services, that aren’t governments, critics said.

“You have all these special districts that are just lines on a map,” said E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center on State Policy, based in Albany.

McMahon said Cuomo’s plan doesn’t tackle the real issues facing local governments, such as the mandates on union contracts, pensions and workplace laws that drive up municipalities’ costs.

“If you want to actually begin reducing the cost of local government in New York, you’re not going to do it by erasing lines on a map,” McMahon said. “You’re going to do it by erasing mandates from the law.”

Legislative leaders met in public Monday to formally lay out their budget priorities, which annually opens the last two scheduled weeks of negotiations.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said the majority conferences in both the Senate and Assembly agree that the budget must take steps to reduce property taxes.

Silver said Assembly Democrats didn’t like that Cuomo’s tax freeze didn’t apply to New York City, which isn’t bound by the state’s 2 percent property-tax cap. Cuomo has insisted that the plan include a renter’s tax credit.

“Not everybody in the state was eligible for the freeze. It was only those that are subject to the property-tax cap and those that live within the property-tax cap,” Silver said. “So there are some parts of the state that aren’t subject to the property-tax cap to begin with, and other people’s benefits would be contingent on some local elected official deciding whether they’re entitled to it or not.”

Senate Republicans and the five-member Independent Democratic, which share control of the chamber, backed a plan that would have the state reimbursing local governments instead of taxpayers. That way the property taxpayers would pay less on their tax bill rather than waiting for a reimbursement from the state, supporters said.

“The concept is the same, we’re just doing it differently,” Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, told reporters.

Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, said the top lawmakers are “all on the same page” when it comes to reducing property taxes.

“We understand that we need to have property-tax relief that benefits all New Yorkers,” said Klein, whose district includes part of Westchester County. “We need to have renter relief, we have to have relief for those who have co-ops and condos, and I’m very confident that we can develop a package that meets all those needs.”

© 2014, Gannett News Service

You may also like

The good, the bad and the ugly in Cuomo’s budget

“We are at the early stages of what shapes up as the biggest state and city fiscal crisis since the Great Depression,” said E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center. “Borrowing and short-term cuts aside, the budget doesn’t chart any clear path out of it.” Read More

Medicaid cuts make the state budget, with some tweaks

Bill Hammond, director of health policy at the conservative-leaning think tank the Empire Center, suggested this is because the proposed cuts are meant to slow the otherwise rapid growth in Medicaid spending, which means an increase is still possible.  Read More

Gov. Cuomo’s Lawsuit on Pres. Trump’s Tax Cuts Dismissed

But according to the Empire Center, a non-profit group based in Albany, the overall impact of the Trump tax cuts actually benefited most state residents. Read More


Six-figure pensions are becoming the norm among retirees from New York’s largest downstate suburban police departments, according to data posted at, the Empire Center’s transparency website. Read More

Bill Requires Municipalities To Maintain Their Websites

Skoufis’ legislation references a 2014 Empire Center highlighted the poor quality of municipal websites many of which lacked basic information. The report found that less than 20% of local governments received a passing grade on their website’s availability of information and usability including two municipalities that did not have a website. Some of those websites have improved over the past five years, including Jamestown’s, which received an “F” rating in 2014. The updated city website includes all of the information Skoufis’ legislation would mandate. Read More

It’s never simple arithmetic with schools

Earlier this week, the Empire Center did its own report on the plummeting numbers when it comes to students. Overall, the 2019-20 enrollment is at its lowest levels in New York state in the last 30 years. Read More

EDITORIAL: State schools continue spending more for less

As reported by the Empire Center last week, “The number of students enrolled in New York state public schools is the lowest recorded in 30 years.” Since 2000, enrollment in public schools has declined by more than 10 percent statewide with most of it upstate as enrollment in New York City schools has increased 1.3 percent in the last 10 years. Students are not leaving to go to private or parochial schools either because they, too, are showing declines, down about 8 percent in the last decade. Read More

$1 billion semiconductor plant: ‘Flashy mega-project’ or ‘transformational investment’ for New York?

"The state is continuing its strategy of pursuing flashy mega-projects instead of making New York more attractive for all businesses. We're now in the second decade of this approach, and it's still failing to deliver the promised results," Girardin said. "This is the sort of economic development strategy that politicians turn to when they don't want to take on the tougher questions." Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries:

Press Inquiries:


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!