City progressives took over the New York state Senate in November, however the physique’s largest swing group will probably be suburban Democrats. These Democrats might want to show themselves to their voters, a lot of them owners in locations like Lengthy Island and Westchester.
Probably the most invaluable deliverable for the nascent suburban caucus will probably be a everlasting extension of Gov. Cuomo’s property-tax cap.
Enacted in 2011, Cuomo’s first yr in workplace, the legislation limits the annual progress in complete property-tax levies to 2 % or the speed of inflation, whichever is much less, in all fiscally unbiased college districts and all counties and municipalities outdoors the Huge Apple. It may be overridden by 60 % of the members of native governing our bodies or by an equally giant supermajority of taxpayers voting immediately on college budgets.
Cuomo’s cap has curbed taxes by billions of , in comparison with earlier tendencies and particularly in profligate college districts.
There is only one downside: The tax cap is short-term. On the insistence of then-Meeting Speaker Sheldon Silver, who had no use for the cap to start with, the cap was awkwardly inserted as a provision of the state legislation regulating metropolis residence rents. Though it dates again to the 1970s, the hire legislation itself is short-term, sunsetting each few years.
When the hire legislation was final prolonged, in 2015, the cap was prolonged, too. The hire rules are subsequent as a result of expire in mid-2019, with the tax cap’s expiration set for a yr later if these legal guidelines aren’t prolonged.
When the cap was final renewed, a tenuous 32-21 majority of Republicans managed the Senate. The GOP majority strongly supported the tax cap whereas additionally backing landlords who resist tighter hire rules.
In final month’s election, nevertheless, the Senate flipped to a 40-member Democratic majority, whereas Democrats retained their supermajority within the Meeting.
In January, members from New York Metropolis will dominate the majorities in each homes. They are going to be much less thinking about controlling property taxes than in strengthening and increasing hire rules.
However this doesn’t imply the extra solidly Democratic Legislature can ignore or attempt to weaken the tax cap. On the contrary: 11 downstate suburban senators can successfully wield the steadiness of energy on this subject. The pivotal core of the Senate’s new, downstate suburban caucus consists of a half-dozen Lengthy Island members.
Todd Kaminsky of Lengthy Seashore will probably be their de facto chief. Kaminsky was first elected in 2016 to the Senate seat held for 31 years by Dean Skelos, the previous Republican majority chief now headed to jail after his conviction on federal corruption expenses.
Kaminsky and the remainder of the Senate Dems’ profitable Lengthy Island slate appeared with Cuomo at an October marketing campaign rally, the place they pledged to again the governor’s coverage priorities, together with the property-tax cap and Cuomo’s self-imposed 2 % restrict on state spending, together with a basic promise to “maintain the road on taxes.”
Urgent for yet one more short-term extension of the measure — with completely no added loopholes that will permit college districts to skirt the cap — is the least the suburban Democrats can do to show their dedication to property homeowners.
To essentially make a mark, and to defy GOP pre-election warnings that they’ll behave like tax-and-spend liberals, the suburban Democrats ought to combat subsequent yr to make the tax cap a everlasting, stand-alone legislation. This was one thing Senate Republicans advocated however might by no means accomplish.
A everlasting tax cap also needs to discover help among the many 5 Democratic state senators from the closely taxed decrease Hudson Valley — together with new Senate Majority Chief Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers, whose district contains among the most prosperous communities in central Westchester.
Kaminsky, for one, appears to get the overall concept, telling Newsday after the election that the brand new delegation isn’t “going to let their voters down.” He added: “I feel the errors of the previous are readily obvious to everybody.”
This was a reference to the Democrats’ transient earlier time period of Senate management in 2009, once they handed a regional payroll tax to prop up the funds of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. That tax package deal was broadly blamed for the 2010 defeat of two Lengthy Island senators, which allowed Republicans to regain management of the higher home.
“We wish to keep within the majority . . . to be a rising and efficient majority,” Kaminsky stated.
A everlasting tax cap would assist them earn it.
E.J. McMahon is analysis director on the Empire Heart for Public Coverage and an adjunct fellow on the Manhattan Institute.