ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo embraced his tax commission's proposal Tuesday for a two-year freeze on what he called crushing local property taxes.
Under the proposal, the state would subsidize the costs of the freeze in 2014 with the first state budget surplus since before the Great Recession. The second year of a freeze would include provisions to encourage local cuts and consolidation of services to yield permanent tax relief, the way Cuomo said state government has done in his three years in office.
"It's good news that we are in a position to frankly have this luxury of deciding how to invest this surplus because we did what we had to," Cuomo said from the commission's Long Island presentation at the State University of New York at Old Westbury.
The report also recommended tax breaks for employers and specifically for manufacturers. The commission also recommended reducing New York's estate tax, which has long been a goal of former Republican Gov. George Pataki, whom Cuomo chose as co-chairman of the commission. Pataki said cutting the estate tax will encourage small-business owners and farmers to stay in New York without fear that their families will be "clobbered" by the estate tax when business are passed on within the family.
Pataki also highlighted the need to let a temporary income tax surcharge on New York's wealthiest residents to expire as planned in 2018. Cuomo and the Legislature have extended that $2 billion-a-year income tax increase twice after Cuomo and Senate Republicans promised to let it end because it was a "job killer."
Cuomo said he will more carefully review the commission's proposals and bring them to the Legislature. Lawmakers could adopt some or all of the ideas in the session beginning in January, the start of the election year for Cuomo and the lawmakers.
Cuomo's priority of holding the line on some of the nation's highest property taxes come as New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio plans to press state legislators to pass a tax hike on wealthy city residents. The Democrat wants the city tax increase to fund his signature campaign promise of providing universal pre-kindergarten programs.