Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/property-tax-reform 2018-07-22T16:16:49+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Council Pushes Property Tax Rebate as De Blasio Continues Stall on Broader Reform 2018-05-14T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7671:city-council-pushes-property-tax-rebate-as-de-blasio-continues-to-stall-on-broader-reform Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41058180115_2ea1821e0a_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson City Council hearing" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson &amp; Council members (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council has been pushing for temporary relief for lower- and middle-class homeowners in this year’s budget, calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to fund a one-time $400 property tax rebate that would cost about $187 million in total. Council Members, some of whom are homeowners themselves and could potentially qualify for the rebate, say it’s a much needed measure that could help thousands of New Yorkers reduce their annual tax burden.</p> <p>The Council’s proposal set a $150,000 threshold for households to qualify for the $400 rebate, which would reach roughly 467,000 homeowners, according to the Council’s finance division. The proposal is merely a stop-gap, in lieu of broader reform of the city’s property tax system, which the mayor has promised but has been slow to act on.</p> <p>At least a few Council members themselves stand to benefit from the rebate, given that the City Council voted in 2016 to increase members’ salaries from $112,500 to $148,500, while at the same time limiting the outside income they can earn, meaning that individual members fall just under the Council’s income threshold for the rebate. Most Council members, like most residents of the city, are renters, but a few do own property according to the latest available disclosures filed with the city Conflicts of Interest Board.</p> <p>A Council spokesperson said member income was not part of the discussion on the rebate, which would reach about 75 percent of home, coop, and condo owners.</p> <p>“Middle class homeowners deserve a break, which is why the City Council proposed a $400 refund for them in this year’s budget response,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in a statement. “We know that every little bit counts and felt this refund could help people while we work on the bigger issue - reforming the broken system.”</p> <p>Council Member Joseph Borelli, a Republican from Staten Island and a homeowner, says he wouldn’t qualify for the rebate since he earns about $6,000 from teaching at College of Staten Island, which he’s allowed to do under the Council’s rule change, which includes exceptions for forms of passive income and a few activities like teaching. That extra income puts him just over the top.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7234-city-council-members-still-navigating-outside-income-divestment-ahead-of-deadline" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Members Still Navigating Outside Income Divestment Ahead of Deadline</a>]</p> <p>Borelli, whose district is largely homeowners and is one of the main proponents of the rebate, isn’t concerned about the optics of Council members potentially benefiting from a rebate that they’re pushing so hard, though he conceded that members could be forthcoming about qualifying for it. “It’s like saying we all receive the public benefit of a new stop sign or a new highway,” he said. “If there’s something that’s done as a public benefit to all taxpayers, if you wanna require people to disclose that they’re going to get a check for 400 bucks in the mail, I’m certainly happy to do that. Also saying I won’t qualify myself.”</p> <p>He rightly predicted that even members who own property will likely pass the threshold since many file their tax returns jointly with their spouses. “It’s an interesting question, I just don’t have the answer. But it sucks that I won’t be getting it,” he half-joked. “That’s on record, too.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7659-max-murphy-podcast-city-council-member-joe-borelli" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcat: City Council Member Joe Borelli</a>]</p> <p>Borelli is among the members who were particularly disappointed by the mayor’s refusal to address property taxes in his $89 billion executive budget proposal, released late last month. A joint statement from Borelli and Council Members Justin Brannan, Steven Matteo, Paul Vallone, Barry Grodenchik, and Mark Gjonaj noted that the administration had yet to address “the glaring inequities of a property tax system that charges the owner of a modest home in our districts more than the owner of a multi-million dollar brownstone in Park Slope,” a clear reference to de Blasio’s Brooklyn homeownership, which includes two houses that he currently rents out. De Blasio would not be eligible for the rebate given his $258,750 salary.</p> <p>“I know we speak for just about every property owner in the five boroughs when we say, ‘C’mon man, give us a break!,’” the Council members concluded.</p> <p>“[L]ike many of his constituents, Councilman Matteo owns a home,” said Peter Spencer, a spokesperson for the minority leader, also a Staten Island Republican, in an email. “His household income fluctuates, so it would depend on the tax filing year as to whether he would meet the $150,000 threshold. He has been advocating for a property tax rebate for years for all homeowners, to alleviate the financial burden skyrocketing property taxes are having on so many families and seniors.”</p> <p>The other members on the statement are all Democrats, as are de Blasio and Speaker Johnson, but they represent areas of the city with higher home ownership rates than most other Council members. Grodenchik and Vallone’s offices did not respond to voicemails requesting comment. Reginald Johnson, Gjonaj’s chief of staff, said the Council member owns property but files a joint tax return with his wife, who is a nurse, and would not qualify for the rebate.</p> <p>De Blasio has repeatedly said that he would launch a commission to look at the city’s property tax system and to recommend fundamental change in how taxes are assessed. Unlike other taxes, the city does not need approval from the state Legislature to amend its property tax rates, which have remained flat over the last few years but have been evenly applied across the city with no accounting for varying property values, while assessments continue to rise, increasing tax bills virtually across the board.</p> <p>“We’re going to...go at the heart of the property tax problem and have a commission, working closely with the Council to try and reform fundamentally the property tax to be more fair for everyone,” de Blasio told reporters at his executive budget presentation on April 26. “So, I would argue the best way to address the property tax question is the fix the whole system. Everyone loves a rebate, but it doesn’t fix the root cause, and most rebates are pretty small and then you never see them again. We want to get at the root cause.”</p> <p>Maria Doulis, vice-president of Citizens Budget Commission, an independent fiscal watchdog, echoed that position while also pointing out that the Council’s interim approach may be flawed. “It’s a well-intentioned proposal,” she said of the rebate, “but it’s too broad a measure to address their concerns.” An umbrella threshold, she said, doesn’t capture the differences in households and property values across the city, so those with a high property tax burden would stand to receive the same benefit as those with a negligible one.</p> <p>“It’s best to do it with a circuit breaker rather than a flat rebate,” she said, referring to <a href="https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/pb10cb.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an industry term</a> for targeted property tax breaks based on a percentage of income. “Circuit breakers take into account your income as well as your burden. That’s a better way to do it. Given the complexity and problems with the property tax, I’m not sure adding another wrinkle is the best thing to do.”</p> <p>Council Member Brannan, who has been advocating for property tax reform since his campaign for office, is a renter but he understands the effect a rebate could have. “I’m a renter, but my landlord certainly would factor that into my rent,” he said.</p> <p>“Obviously it doesn’t benefit me because I’m a renter but because when I was knocking on doors for nine months in my campaign, that was one of the top things I heard about, was people getting squeezed -- renters too. It all trickles down. Coops, condos, homeowners, everything. It’s a big deal for me. I’m not gonna benefit from it but it’s a big deal,” he added. (CBC’s Doulis said it’s unclear that a temporary rebate would get passed down to renters but that wholesale reform was more likely to have that effect.)</p> <p>Other homeowners identified in COIB disclosures include Council Members Peter Koo, Jumaane Williams, and Fernando Cabrera.</p> <p>Cabrera and Williams did not respond to requests for comment. Scott Sieber, a spokesperson for Koo told Gotham Gazette the Council member files taxes jointly with his wife and would not qualify for the rebate. “The rebate is good for all our constituents in the city,” Koo said at City Hall last week.</p> <p>Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr., a former state senator, said that he has qualified for state property tax credits in the past but has refused to apply for them. “When I was in Albany, they gave credits to property owners and I never took one and I would never apply for it until I retire,” he told Gotham Gazette in the Council chambers last week. “But there are people in the City of New York, homeowners that deserve to take a break on those things. I support the speaker.”</p> <p>What if he qualified for the Council’s proposed rebate? “I won’t take it,” he said.</p> <p>The City Council is in the midst of weeks of hearings on de Blasio’s executive budget, while Johnson and others <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7658-de-blasio-and-city-council-tangle-over-how-to-spend-1-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">continue to push their top priorities</a> -- the property tax rebate, reduced price MetroCards for people living in poverty, and an added $500 million into reserves -- for inclusion in the adopted budget, which the two sides must agree on by the July 1 start to the new fiscal year.</p> <p>On the steps of City Hall, Council Member Chaim Deutsch brushed aside any concerns about personal conflicts in pushing for a rebate. “When we’re fighting for issues, a lot of the time we fight for issues that affect us because that’s where we get the experience from, and that’s how we know sometimes how to fight for things,” he said. “Because we as New Yorkers understand sometimes when it’s difficult for a Council member to make ends meet, that we know how difficult it may be for others. So we fight for issues. So you can’t single out one thing over another.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7658-de-blasio-and-city-council-tangle-over-how-to-spend-1-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">De Blasio, City Council Tangle Over How to Spend $1 Billion</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41058180115_2ea1821e0a_z.jpg" alt="Corey Johnson City Council hearing" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Speaker Johnson &amp; Council members (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Council has been pushing for temporary relief for lower- and middle-class homeowners in this year’s budget, calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to fund a one-time $400 property tax rebate that would cost about $187 million in total. Council Members, some of whom are homeowners themselves and could potentially qualify for the rebate, say it’s a much needed measure that could help thousands of New Yorkers reduce their annual tax burden.</p> <p>The Council’s proposal set a $150,000 threshold for households to qualify for the $400 rebate, which would reach roughly 467,000 homeowners, according to the Council’s finance division. The proposal is merely a stop-gap, in lieu of broader reform of the city’s property tax system, which the mayor has promised but has been slow to act on.</p> <p>At least a few Council members themselves stand to benefit from the rebate, given that the City Council voted in 2016 to increase members’ salaries from $112,500 to $148,500, while at the same time limiting the outside income they can earn, meaning that individual members fall just under the Council’s income threshold for the rebate. Most Council members, like most residents of the city, are renters, but a few do own property according to the latest available disclosures filed with the city Conflicts of Interest Board.</p> <p>A Council spokesperson said member income was not part of the discussion on the rebate, which would reach about 75 percent of home, coop, and condo owners.</p> <p>“Middle class homeowners deserve a break, which is why the City Council proposed a $400 refund for them in this year’s budget response,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in a statement. “We know that every little bit counts and felt this refund could help people while we work on the bigger issue - reforming the broken system.”</p> <p>Council Member Joseph Borelli, a Republican from Staten Island and a homeowner, says he wouldn’t qualify for the rebate since he earns about $6,000 from teaching at College of Staten Island, which he’s allowed to do under the Council’s rule change, which includes exceptions for forms of passive income and a few activities like teaching. That extra income puts him just over the top.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7234-city-council-members-still-navigating-outside-income-divestment-ahead-of-deadline" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City Council Members Still Navigating Outside Income Divestment Ahead of Deadline</a>]</p> <p>Borelli, whose district is largely homeowners and is one of the main proponents of the rebate, isn’t concerned about the optics of Council members potentially benefiting from a rebate that they’re pushing so hard, though he conceded that members could be forthcoming about qualifying for it. “It’s like saying we all receive the public benefit of a new stop sign or a new highway,” he said. “If there’s something that’s done as a public benefit to all taxpayers, if you wanna require people to disclose that they’re going to get a check for 400 bucks in the mail, I’m certainly happy to do that. Also saying I won’t qualify myself.”</p> <p>He rightly predicted that even members who own property will likely pass the threshold since many file their tax returns jointly with their spouses. “It’s an interesting question, I just don’t have the answer. But it sucks that I won’t be getting it,” he half-joked. “That’s on record, too.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7659-max-murphy-podcast-city-council-member-joe-borelli" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Max &amp; Murphy Podcat: City Council Member Joe Borelli</a>]</p> <p>Borelli is among the members who were particularly disappointed by the mayor’s refusal to address property taxes in his $89 billion executive budget proposal, released late last month. A joint statement from Borelli and Council Members Justin Brannan, Steven Matteo, Paul Vallone, Barry Grodenchik, and Mark Gjonaj noted that the administration had yet to address “the glaring inequities of a property tax system that charges the owner of a modest home in our districts more than the owner of a multi-million dollar brownstone in Park Slope,” a clear reference to de Blasio’s Brooklyn homeownership, which includes two houses that he currently rents out. De Blasio would not be eligible for the rebate given his $258,750 salary.</p> <p>“I know we speak for just about every property owner in the five boroughs when we say, ‘C’mon man, give us a break!,’” the Council members concluded.</p> <p>“[L]ike many of his constituents, Councilman Matteo owns a home,” said Peter Spencer, a spokesperson for the minority leader, also a Staten Island Republican, in an email. “His household income fluctuates, so it would depend on the tax filing year as to whether he would meet the $150,000 threshold. He has been advocating for a property tax rebate for years for all homeowners, to alleviate the financial burden skyrocketing property taxes are having on so many families and seniors.”</p> <p>The other members on the statement are all Democrats, as are de Blasio and Speaker Johnson, but they represent areas of the city with higher home ownership rates than most other Council members. Grodenchik and Vallone’s offices did not respond to voicemails requesting comment. Reginald Johnson, Gjonaj’s chief of staff, said the Council member owns property but files a joint tax return with his wife, who is a nurse, and would not qualify for the rebate.</p> <p>De Blasio has repeatedly said that he would launch a commission to look at the city’s property tax system and to recommend fundamental change in how taxes are assessed. Unlike other taxes, the city does not need approval from the state Legislature to amend its property tax rates, which have remained flat over the last few years but have been evenly applied across the city with no accounting for varying property values, while assessments continue to rise, increasing tax bills virtually across the board.</p> <p>“We’re going to...go at the heart of the property tax problem and have a commission, working closely with the Council to try and reform fundamentally the property tax to be more fair for everyone,” de Blasio told reporters at his executive budget presentation on April 26. “So, I would argue the best way to address the property tax question is the fix the whole system. Everyone loves a rebate, but it doesn’t fix the root cause, and most rebates are pretty small and then you never see them again. We want to get at the root cause.”</p> <p>Maria Doulis, vice-president of Citizens Budget Commission, an independent fiscal watchdog, echoed that position while also pointing out that the Council’s interim approach may be flawed. “It’s a well-intentioned proposal,” she said of the rebate, “but it’s too broad a measure to address their concerns.” An umbrella threshold, she said, doesn’t capture the differences in households and property values across the city, so those with a high property tax burden would stand to receive the same benefit as those with a negligible one.</p> <p>“It’s best to do it with a circuit breaker rather than a flat rebate,” she said, referring to <a href="https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/pb10cb.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an industry term</a> for targeted property tax breaks based on a percentage of income. “Circuit breakers take into account your income as well as your burden. That’s a better way to do it. Given the complexity and problems with the property tax, I’m not sure adding another wrinkle is the best thing to do.”</p> <p>Council Member Brannan, who has been advocating for property tax reform since his campaign for office, is a renter but he understands the effect a rebate could have. “I’m a renter, but my landlord certainly would factor that into my rent,” he said.</p> <p>“Obviously it doesn’t benefit me because I’m a renter but because when I was knocking on doors for nine months in my campaign, that was one of the top things I heard about, was people getting squeezed -- renters too. It all trickles down. Coops, condos, homeowners, everything. It’s a big deal for me. I’m not gonna benefit from it but it’s a big deal,” he added. (CBC’s Doulis said it’s unclear that a temporary rebate would get passed down to renters but that wholesale reform was more likely to have that effect.)</p> <p>Other homeowners identified in COIB disclosures include Council Members Peter Koo, Jumaane Williams, and Fernando Cabrera.</p> <p>Cabrera and Williams did not respond to requests for comment. Scott Sieber, a spokesperson for Koo told Gotham Gazette the Council member files taxes jointly with his wife and would not qualify for the rebate. “The rebate is good for all our constituents in the city,” Koo said at City Hall last week.</p> <p>Council Member Ruben Diaz Sr., a former state senator, said that he has qualified for state property tax credits in the past but has refused to apply for them. “When I was in Albany, they gave credits to property owners and I never took one and I would never apply for it until I retire,” he told Gotham Gazette in the Council chambers last week. “But there are people in the City of New York, homeowners that deserve to take a break on those things. I support the speaker.”</p> <p>What if he qualified for the Council’s proposed rebate? “I won’t take it,” he said.</p> <p>The City Council is in the midst of weeks of hearings on de Blasio’s executive budget, while Johnson and others <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7658-de-blasio-and-city-council-tangle-over-how-to-spend-1-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">continue to push their top priorities</a> -- the property tax rebate, reduced price MetroCards for people living in poverty, and an added $500 million into reserves -- for inclusion in the adopted budget, which the two sides must agree on by the July 1 start to the new fiscal year.</p> <p>On the steps of City Hall, Council Member Chaim Deutsch brushed aside any concerns about personal conflicts in pushing for a rebate. “When we’re fighting for issues, a lot of the time we fight for issues that affect us because that’s where we get the experience from, and that’s how we know sometimes how to fight for things,” he said. “Because we as New Yorkers understand sometimes when it’s difficult for a Council member to make ends meet, that we know how difficult it may be for others. So we fight for issues. So you can’t single out one thing over another.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7658-de-blasio-and-city-council-tangle-over-how-to-spend-1-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener">De Blasio, City Council Tangle Over How to Spend $1 Billion</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
What’s The [Data] Point? $26 billion 2017-11-30T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-30T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7341:what-s-the-data-point-26-billion-property-taxes-new-york-city Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 21</strong><strong> -- $26 billion, with Martha Stark [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes] </strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/martha-stark-ep21-d.jpg" alt="martha stark ep21 d" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>The property tax system in New York is complex and controversial. New York City will take in $26 billion in property taxes this year from resident and business property owners -- the largest single source of revenue that funds New York City government. But there are significant inequities in the system and there has been talk of reform for decades, but nothing has been done. While Mayor de Blasio has promised action in his second term, a group has formed to sue the city and state to compel them into changing the system. Martha Stark is a former New York City finance commissioner who is working with the group, Tax Equity Now, and she joined the podcast to discuss the system, its problems, the lawsuit, and possible solutions.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Carol Kellerman of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny">@cbcny</a>), and guest Martha Stark. Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/363073052&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The Data Point? Episode 21</strong><strong> -- $26 billion, with Martha Stark [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes] </strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/martha-stark-ep21-d.jpg" alt="martha stark ep21 d" width="277" height="143" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>The property tax system in New York is complex and controversial. New York City will take in $26 billion in property taxes this year from resident and business property owners -- the largest single source of revenue that funds New York City government. But there are significant inequities in the system and there has been talk of reform for decades, but nothing has been done. While Mayor de Blasio has promised action in his second term, a group has formed to sue the city and state to compel them into changing the system. Martha Stark is a former New York City finance commissioner who is working with the group, Tax Equity Now, and she joined the podcast to discuss the system, its problems, the lawsuit, and possible solutions.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Carol Kellerman of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/cbcny">@cbcny</a>), and guest Martha Stark. Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/363073052&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
In Albany, State Senators Ambush De Blasio on Property Tax Reform 2016-01-26T23:32:43+00:00 2016-01-26T23:32:43+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6117:in-albany-state-senators-ambush-de-blasio-on-property-tax-reform kfan <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24262206039_587d3c0fdf_z.jpg" alt="de blasio albany" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio in Albany Tuesday (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio surely wasn't expecting a warm reception in Albany Tuesday, but he walked into an ambush. In front of a bipartisan group of state legislators, de Blasio sat for a grueling, nearly five-hour budget testimony. Senate Republicans peppered the mayor with questions about instituting a property tax cap in the city, taking away from any focus on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6088-cuomo-outlines-144-billion-budget-" target="_blank">budget proposals</a> that would shift state Medicaid and CUNY costs to the city and changing the political dynamics of the budget dance between the city and state.</p> <p>The hearing was led by Senate finance chair Sen. Catharine Young, a Republican who appeared determined to push de Blasio on the property tax issue as well as his opposition to the city paying more for CUNY and Medicaid. At least one legislator suggested he would give de Blasio his support in a fight against Cuomo's proposed cost shifts in exchange for the mayor's support for a property tax cap. De Blasio indicated in a brief conversation with reporters later in the day that Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had told him during their private meeting that he was not proposing such an exchange.</p> <p>De Blasio pushed back against the proposed two percent tax cap saying that while his budgeting so far has kept well within the parameters of the Senate bill - which, not coincidentally, passed in the chamber while de Blasio was testifying nearby - he is "philosophically" opposed to such a cap.</p> <p>"One thing I'm adamant about is presenting budgets that do not include a property tax increase," said de Blasio, whose aides were quick to present members of media with data indicating that city homeowners pay the lowest property tax rates in the state and that a cap would cost the city billions in revenue each year.</p> <p>While de Blasio is not raising property tax rates, homeowners do pay increasing property taxes as the values of their homes rise.</p> <p>Traditionally mayors and representatives for localities from across the state travel to the legislature's joint budget hearing on local government to give their evaluations of the governor's proposed budget while pushing for more funding. This year de Blasio was expected to focus on key aspects of his own agenda that need continued funding and the proposals in Cuomo's budget that would shift additional costs onto the city, estimated to cost the city well over one billion dollars annually. De Blasio is also looking to renew mayoral control of schools and advance his affordable housing plan, which hit a major snag when negotiations to renew the 421-a tax break failed.</p> <p>However, Senate Republicans appeared fixated on keeping de Blasio on the defensive by repeatedly pushing the tax cap proposal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature passed a two percent local and school-based property tax cap in 2011, though New York City is the only locality excluded. The property tax cap is the only tax the city controls independently of the state. Both Queens Sen. Tony Avella, of the Independent Democratic Conference, and Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island, insisted property taxes were driving the middle class out of the city. It was a contention that de Blasio refuted.</p> <p>In what is sure to be an extremely sensitive topic for the rest of session, de Blasio pressed the legislature to renew mayoral control of schools permanently, or for at least seven years as it had done before he was mayor. De Blasio received just a one year extension last year and Gov. Cuomo has called for a three-year extension.</p> <p>Last year Senate Republicans held the issue over de Blasio's head seemingly in retribution for his involvement in efforts to help Democrats win the chamber. The policy is now up for renewal again during an election year when de Blasio has indicated he will again help Senate Democrats.</p> <p>The mayor touted increasing graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and the successful implementation of universal pre-kindergarten.</p> <p>"Successes like these are why there's bipartisan consensus on mayoral control and that is why educators, business leaders, civic leaders alike want it renewed," de Blasio testified. "It would build predictability into the system, which is important for bringing about the deep, long-range change that is needed."</p> <p>De Blasio also used portions of his testimony to compliment Cuomo on prioritizing supportive housing, affordable housing, an increase in the minimum wage, and a paid family leave proposal. He also praised the continued push for the Dream Act and raising the age of criminal responsibility, two policies the governor and Assembly Democrats have backed, but that have run into opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>Sen. Young, who represents parts of western New York, and her colleagues pushed back against complaints de Blasio made about Cuomo's plan to shift costs for Medicaid and CUNY onto the city. She insisted the city is "awash in money right now" and implied that the city gets more than its fair share in Medicaid funding from the state. Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, sought to contradict the assertion when she had time to speak and ask the mayor questions.</p> <p>"So, Senator Young brought up the amount of Medicaid money New York City gets compared to the rest of the state," said Krueger. "Do we get special rules for New York City? Or is it just a ration of the number of poor people drawing down Medicaid throughout the state, and the New York City share?"</p> <p>Dean Fuleihan, de Blasio's budget director, responded that the city does not set its rate of Medicaid reimbursement and does not get a rate different than any other municipality in the state.</p> <p>Krueger continued that strategy of questioning while discussing Cuomo's proposal to shift more costs for CUNY onto the city. "In fact, this proposal that the governor's making, what it does is shift a greater burden to the locality for CUNY students than for SUNY students," said Krueger.</p> <p>"That's correct," Fuleihan replied.</p> <p>"And is it true that CUNY students are already lower-income on average than SUNY students throughout the state?" Krueger asked. "Correct," said Fuleihan.</p> <p>Democrats weren't just coming to de Blasio's defense, though. Sen. Bill Perkins pressed the mayor on his relationship with charter schools, while others expressed concerns that his housing plans could lead to gentrification and wondered about the efficacy of the 421-a program, which de Blasio wants to see renewed, albeit with his desired changes.</p> <p>Toward the end of the hearing de Blasio and Young appeared to try to find common ground on housing despite the fact that Young said that she would like to see an end to affordable housing regulations.</p> <p>Young encouraged de Blasio to tackle the shortage of affordable housing. De Blasio responded by pointing to 421-a. "We think there is a solution available given the plan we put forward that had widespread support," said de Blasio, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">referencing his plan to renew 421-a</a> that was scrapped when Cuomo and the legislature decided to let developers and unions negotiate the wages portion of the bill and they could not come to an agreement.</p> <p>Young then pushed de Blasio to pick whether he favored the budget from the last fiscal year or the governor's current plan. "There are so many unanswered questions in the current budget, I can't answer that question," de Blasio said. Cuomo has yet to outline how he will pay for major construction projects, including the revamp of Penn Station and the city's airports. The governor also has general outlines of housing plans that his policy book promises will be fleshed out in the coming weeks. Further, Cuomo indicated he would abandon plans to shift costs from CUNY and Medicaid to the city if "efficiencies" can be found by the city and state working collaboratively. "There are a lot of elements of this budget we don't have the full facts on," said de Blasio, adding that he was very appreciative of the governor's supportive housing proposal.</p> <p>Young said it was clear to her that de Blasio should favor this year's proposed budget over last year's enacted. "From what I can see there are significant investments to the city across the board," said Young.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6107-de-blasio-releases-cautious-82-billion-preliminary-budget" target="_blank">De Blasio Releases Cautious $82 Billion Budget</a>]</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24262206039_587d3c0fdf_z.jpg" alt="de blasio albany" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Mayor de Blasio in Albany Tuesday (photo:&nbsp;Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio surely wasn't expecting a warm reception in Albany Tuesday, but he walked into an ambush. In front of a bipartisan group of state legislators, de Blasio sat for a grueling, nearly five-hour budget testimony. Senate Republicans peppered the mayor with questions about instituting a property tax cap in the city, taking away from any focus on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6088-cuomo-outlines-144-billion-budget-" target="_blank">budget proposals</a> that would shift state Medicaid and CUNY costs to the city and changing the political dynamics of the budget dance between the city and state.</p> <p>The hearing was led by Senate finance chair Sen. Catharine Young, a Republican who appeared determined to push de Blasio on the property tax issue as well as his opposition to the city paying more for CUNY and Medicaid. At least one legislator suggested he would give de Blasio his support in a fight against Cuomo's proposed cost shifts in exchange for the mayor's support for a property tax cap. De Blasio indicated in a brief conversation with reporters later in the day that Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan had told him during their private meeting that he was not proposing such an exchange.</p> <p>De Blasio pushed back against the proposed two percent tax cap saying that while his budgeting so far has kept well within the parameters of the Senate bill - which, not coincidentally, passed in the chamber while de Blasio was testifying nearby - he is "philosophically" opposed to such a cap.</p> <p>"One thing I'm adamant about is presenting budgets that do not include a property tax increase," said de Blasio, whose aides were quick to present members of media with data indicating that city homeowners pay the lowest property tax rates in the state and that a cap would cost the city billions in revenue each year.</p> <p>While de Blasio is not raising property tax rates, homeowners do pay increasing property taxes as the values of their homes rise.</p> <p>Traditionally mayors and representatives for localities from across the state travel to the legislature's joint budget hearing on local government to give their evaluations of the governor's proposed budget while pushing for more funding. This year de Blasio was expected to focus on key aspects of his own agenda that need continued funding and the proposals in Cuomo's budget that would shift additional costs onto the city, estimated to cost the city well over one billion dollars annually. De Blasio is also looking to renew mayoral control of schools and advance his affordable housing plan, which hit a major snag when negotiations to renew the 421-a tax break failed.</p> <p>However, Senate Republicans appeared fixated on keeping de Blasio on the defensive by repeatedly pushing the tax cap proposal. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature passed a two percent local and school-based property tax cap in 2011, though New York City is the only locality excluded. The property tax cap is the only tax the city controls independently of the state. Both Queens Sen. Tony Avella, of the Independent Democratic Conference, and Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island, insisted property taxes were driving the middle class out of the city. It was a contention that de Blasio refuted.</p> <p>In what is sure to be an extremely sensitive topic for the rest of session, de Blasio pressed the legislature to renew mayoral control of schools permanently, or for at least seven years as it had done before he was mayor. De Blasio received just a one year extension last year and Gov. Cuomo has called for a three-year extension.</p> <p>Last year Senate Republicans held the issue over de Blasio's head seemingly in retribution for his involvement in efforts to help Democrats win the chamber. The policy is now up for renewal again during an election year when de Blasio has indicated he will again help Senate Democrats.</p> <p>The mayor touted increasing graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and the successful implementation of universal pre-kindergarten.</p> <p>"Successes like these are why there's bipartisan consensus on mayoral control and that is why educators, business leaders, civic leaders alike want it renewed," de Blasio testified. "It would build predictability into the system, which is important for bringing about the deep, long-range change that is needed."</p> <p>De Blasio also used portions of his testimony to compliment Cuomo on prioritizing supportive housing, affordable housing, an increase in the minimum wage, and a paid family leave proposal. He also praised the continued push for the Dream Act and raising the age of criminal responsibility, two policies the governor and Assembly Democrats have backed, but that have run into opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>Sen. Young, who represents parts of western New York, and her colleagues pushed back against complaints de Blasio made about Cuomo's plan to shift costs for Medicaid and CUNY onto the city. She insisted the city is "awash in money right now" and implied that the city gets more than its fair share in Medicaid funding from the state. Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, sought to contradict the assertion when she had time to speak and ask the mayor questions.</p> <p>"So, Senator Young brought up the amount of Medicaid money New York City gets compared to the rest of the state," said Krueger. "Do we get special rules for New York City? Or is it just a ration of the number of poor people drawing down Medicaid throughout the state, and the New York City share?"</p> <p>Dean Fuleihan, de Blasio's budget director, responded that the city does not set its rate of Medicaid reimbursement and does not get a rate different than any other municipality in the state.</p> <p>Krueger continued that strategy of questioning while discussing Cuomo's proposal to shift more costs for CUNY onto the city. "In fact, this proposal that the governor's making, what it does is shift a greater burden to the locality for CUNY students than for SUNY students," said Krueger.</p> <p>"That's correct," Fuleihan replied.</p> <p>"And is it true that CUNY students are already lower-income on average than SUNY students throughout the state?" Krueger asked. "Correct," said Fuleihan.</p> <p>Democrats weren't just coming to de Blasio's defense, though. Sen. Bill Perkins pressed the mayor on his relationship with charter schools, while others expressed concerns that his housing plans could lead to gentrification and wondered about the efficacy of the 421-a program, which de Blasio wants to see renewed, albeit with his desired changes.</p> <p>Toward the end of the hearing de Blasio and Young appeared to try to find common ground on housing despite the fact that Young said that she would like to see an end to affordable housing regulations.</p> <p>Young encouraged de Blasio to tackle the shortage of affordable housing. De Blasio responded by pointing to 421-a. "We think there is a solution available given the plan we put forward that had widespread support," said de Blasio, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6098-de-blasio-calls-for-albany-to-make-right-on-program-at-center-of-rift-with-governor" target="_blank">referencing his plan to renew 421-a</a> that was scrapped when Cuomo and the legislature decided to let developers and unions negotiate the wages portion of the bill and they could not come to an agreement.</p> <p>Young then pushed de Blasio to pick whether he favored the budget from the last fiscal year or the governor's current plan. "There are so many unanswered questions in the current budget, I can't answer that question," de Blasio said. Cuomo has yet to outline how he will pay for major construction projects, including the revamp of Penn Station and the city's airports. The governor also has general outlines of housing plans that his policy book promises will be fleshed out in the coming weeks. Further, Cuomo indicated he would abandon plans to shift costs from CUNY and Medicaid to the city if "efficiencies" can be found by the city and state working collaboratively. "There are a lot of elements of this budget we don't have the full facts on," said de Blasio, adding that he was very appreciative of the governor's supportive housing proposal.</p> <p>Young said it was clear to her that de Blasio should favor this year's proposed budget over last year's enacted. "From what I can see there are significant investments to the city across the board," said Young.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Related: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6107-de-blasio-releases-cautious-82-billion-preliminary-budget" target="_blank">De Blasio Releases Cautious $82 Billion Budget</a>]</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>