Tax Cap Facilitates Mandate Relief

A legislative column by Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown)

Throughout this legislative year, there has been a push by the Assembly Minority Conference and the state Senate’s Majority to pass a property tax cap. The proposed tax cap would keep property taxes at a 2% increase or 120% of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower. While a cap is important to limit the growth of Long Island’s sky-high property taxes, only the tax cap will drive all interested parties to the negotiating table to produce comprehensive mandate relief in order to keep these rates low.

School districts are overburdened with paperwork and government red tape, which the state forces upon them without funding. Schools then pass these additional costs on to taxpayers through property tax increases. In Governor Cuomo’s current property tax cap legislation, there is no direct answer to the problem of unfunded mandates and schools are worried that, with cuts to state education aid, they will, inevitably, have to continue to make cuts in classroom instruction in the effort to afford those unfunded mandates.

However, I see any cap on property taxes as a necessary first step to bring all the stakeholders to the table for true mandate relief. This tax cap legislation will begin to force the hand of Albany to address the burdens faced by school districts with unfunded mandates. Some of my fellow lawmakers do not want to pass the tax cap without direct mandate relief – but there will be no mandate relief without a tax cap.

It is time for the state to take action to save struggling taxpayers and provide relief for school districts and local governments. The governor’s property tax cap will lead to unfunded mandate relief and force a hard look at the cost-drivers that have created some of the highest property taxes in the nation. I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues to pass both a genuine property tax cap and long-needed mandate relief as soon as possible.

As always, I urge constituents to contact me about this or any other state matter. You may reach me at my Smithtown office at 631-724-2929.