tax-cap-150x150-3928769New York’s 2 percent local property tax levy cap has passed another important legal test, prevailing in the state’s mid-level appeals court over a constitutional challenge from the state’s largest teachers’ union.

With just one of its five panel members partially dissenting, the state Appellate Division in Albany yesterday upheld an October 2014 ruling by Supreme Court Justice Patrick J. McGrath—which, as noted here at the time, was “a resounding win for Governor Andrew Cuomo and for property owners across New York.”

Writing for the appellate court, Justice Eugene P. Devine concluded that “no fundamental rights are implicated by” the property tax cap or the subsequent state law creating a temporary state income tax credit that reimbursed property tax hikes only for residents of districts staying within the cap.

NYSUT had claimed the cap violated the state constitutional provision requiring the state to maintain and support public schools, that the 60 percent supermajority provision for tax cap overrides diminished voting rights, and that the tax credit law (also known as the “freeze credit”) had deprived school children of equal protection under the law.

Like McGrath, the appellate justices rejected all of those claims—although one appellate panel member, Justice Michael C. Lynch, said he thought the union’s constitutional claim was “a novel argument” backing up “viable claims.” But Lynch himself seems to have fundamentally misconstrued the tax cap law. From his partial dissent:

Under the challenged legislation, a school district may not adopt a budget above a statutory “cap” – generally the lesser of 2% or the rate of inflation – without the approval of a supermajority of 60% of the voters.

Wrong.  The law caps each district’s tax levy, not its budget, which can increase spending by more than 2 percent if funds are available to support it. And the state school aid spigot has been wide open over the past few years—including a whopping 6.5 percent, $1.5 billion hike in the latest state budget—further undermining NYSUT’s contention that the cap is depriving children of a sound-basic education.

The union reportedly is “very likely” to attempt an appeal to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

The ARP Opportunity

Some New York local governments  are soliciting input from residents as they decide how to spend  billions in pandemic emergency dollars Read More

Sales Tax Receipts Surge Statewide, Filling Local Government Coffers

Local governments across every region of the state raked in robust sales tax collections during the three months that ended on June 30th Read More

The Health Department’s FOIL Responses Signal an Indefinite Wait for Pandemic Data

The quest for comprehensive data on New York's coronavirus pandemic hit a bureaucratic roadblock this week Read More

140 State Employees Paid $100,000 or More … in Overtime

State agencies paid out a total of $851.4 million in overtime pay in 2020, an $18.7 million increase from 2019. Read More

A Study of COVID-19 in Nursing Homes Raises Doubt About New York’s Minimum Staffing Law

A newly published study of COVID-19 in nursing homes links larger numbers of employees to higher rates of infection and death for residents – raising fresh doubts about New York's recently enacted "safe staffing" law. Read More

Health Research Inc. Turns Over its Payroll Records Despite Claiming To Be Exempt from FOIL

The full payroll records of more than 2,400 de facto state employees are available to the public for the first time after being released by Health Research Inc. Read More

Emergency Billions Pose Opportunity—and Risk—for NYS Schools

New York schools are to post publicly today plans for spending a huge pile of unexpected and unbudgeted cash. Read More

Report Reveals Albany’s Balanced Budget a Gimmick

Extending the budget window reveals large, yawning budget gaps growing from nearly $8 billion in 2026 to nearly $20 billion by the end of the decade. Read More

Subscribe

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

CONTACT INFORMATION

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

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

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!