New York City Council Stated Meeting Report
Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.
STATED MEETING - March 24, 2004
Quote of the Day:
"Single-family homeowners should be angry about this. It doesn't make sense. It isn't right." - City Council Speaker Gifford Miller on the delay in the absentee landlord tax.
The New York City Council agreed to delay for two years the collection of a $44 million property tax surcharge on absentee landlords in return for the Bloomberg administration's agreement to restore proposed budget cuts.
Last July, Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council agreed to an "absentee landlord" tax as part of the annual budget agreement. The 25 percent tax applies to landlords who own one-, two-, or three-family houses and use the rent for income. At the time, both sides agreed it would make the city's real estate tax code fairer and generate a much-needed $44 million in revenue.
Since then, the tax plan has fallen apart.
The city's Department of Finance argued that it is too complicated to administer and blames the City Council for implementing it. The mayor said the absentee landlord tax should be repealed. And the City Council said that the finance department is billing the wrong people and failing to provide tax rebates to hundreds of thousands of homeowners who qualify for exemptions.
In exchange for delaying the tax, the mayor agreed to restore $100 million in budget cuts that the council had sought. With the measure, the city funded:
- $75 million for the private bus lines that operate mainly outside Manhattan.
- $8 million for meals for elderly New Yorkers.
- $5.4 million for instruction at the City University of New York.
- $607,000 for mental health services.
- $200,000 for health clinics for children.
The council unanimously approved the budget changes by a vote of 49 to 0, but some council members complained that more cuts should have been avoided.
Brooklyn Councilmembers Letitia James and David Yassky complained that the Brooklyn Borough President's budget was cut while other borough presidents' budgets were not.
Councilmember Lew Fidler and Peter Vallone, Jr. criticized the 17 percent cut to the operating budgets for District Attorneys, arguing that prosecutors are forced to plea bargain cases and to make decisions based on money rather than the law.
And Staten Island Councilmember James Oddo said that a fire company in his district was not getting a new engine because so much money was going to pay the city's portion of Medicaid. Unlike most states, New York requires local governments to pay a major portion of the Medicaid bill. New York City's costs have risen dramatically in recent years, nearly 32 percent from 1999 to 2002. By 2004, Medicaid spending is expected to cost the city over $4 billion a year, or about 13 percent of the total budget.
"In New York State we spend $1,200 for every person on Medicaid," said Oddo. "That's double the national average. In New York, we essentially spend more than California and Texas combined. We have three percent of the nation's population, and we spend around 10 percent of the Medicaid dollars. It is a monster."
Council Speaker Gifford Miller said that while he delayed a vote on the bill, he would continue to fight to have the tax implemented in the future.
The next stated meeting is scheduled for April 1, 2004
For an archive of past meetings and council votes, visit Gotham Gazette's Searchlight.