Contact: Matt Smith

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The only proven route to long-term and lasting property-tax relief in New York is property-tax limitation – such as capping the annual growth in school-tax levies, Empire Center for Public Policy Director E.J. McMahon said in testimony today before state Assembly lawmakers.

Public unhappiness over mounting property taxes in New York has only grown in the decade since STAR was first enacted, McMahon told the Assembly Committee on Real Property Taxation. The reason is because the state has failed to address factors such as the high cost of local government and school districts, which are the root cause of the property-tax problem, he said.

“The ‘relief’ that STAR provides is temporary, like a large dose of fiscal Novocain,” McMahon said. “Once that Novocain wears off, the pain only becomes greater.”

McMahon said New York should follow the lead of Massachusetts, which in 1980 passed Prop 2-1/2. That proposition capped tax levies and has largely been responsible for a sharp relative decline in the Bay State’s local tax burden.

McMahon noted the idea of a cap is not foreign in New York. A proposal by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in 1995 to limit local revenues to the rate of inflation passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly. Gov. Pataki also proposed limiting annual tax levy hikes to 4 percent or inflation, but his plan was never seriously considered during the 1997 budget process.

“At a moment when the winds of change are blowing through the Capitol, when previously closed minds are at least temporarily open to new approaches, the clear consensus in favor of real property tax reform presents an opportunity the Legislature shouldn’t miss,” McMahon said.

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