Opinion: Cap Is First Step Toward Tax Relief

By State Sen. Jim Gaughran

I was born and raised on Long Island. My wife and I own a home in Northport where we raised our kids. Eventually, we want to retire here too.

But for too many of my neighbors, it’s getting too expensive to live here. Starting this tax season, Washington’s plan to limit state and local tax deductions to $10,000 that so many of us depend on is going to prove devastating to our region. Albany had to step up against the federal government’s continued attack on New York taxpayers to protect Long Islanders.

This week I took that first step and introduced legislation to make the property tax cap permanent. No more temporary extensions, no more games of negotiated brinkmanship.

I know the tax cap isn’t a perfect solution. Public policy can always be improved upon to better the lives of hard-working New Yorkers. For instance, some have suggested exempting school safety costs from the tax cap or exempting payments and projects related to natural disasters, the latter being of potential critical importance should Long Island ever faced a Superstorm Sandy again. Others have suggested creating certainty for our school boards by simply making it a solid 2 percent. These are important considerations that we will be seriously looking into.

But for now, a permanent tax cap is a first step of delivering real relief to overburdened taxpayers. I campaigned on the promise of providing relief to strapped Long Islanders. This week, the new Senate Democratic Majority delivered on that promise.

But it can’t stop here. Property taxes are regressive. We need to significantly increase state funding to local municipalities and school districts so that the over-reliance on property taxes, which is exacerbating sky high costs of living, gradually subsides.

Long Islanders shouldn’t be taxed out of their homes to pay for top-notch public education, paved roads or clean water. Our local municipalities need real mandate reform to keep costs down, and the state must deliver more direct aid to help lower local tax levies.

The 2 percent cap protects us from burgeoning tax levies. Our local officials all share a common responsibility to draft a budget that keeps the finances of taxpayers in mind, and if there’s an emergent need that their tax base can’t afford, the state needs to kick in.

But both sides need to live up to that agreement.

Without a cap on property taxes, it is projected that the average residential property tax on Long Island as a region would increase by more than 58 percent in the next ten years. That means the average residential property tax in Suffolk goes from $9,988 to $15,781. In Nassau it’s even worse — from $10,538 to $16,649. In just ten years. People just can’t afford, it’s unsustainable.

For decades, Albany has treated Long Island as the state’s ATM, always taking far more that it returned. This year, that changes.

This year, Long Islanders will see increased state funding for our schools, our infrastructure and our environment. We have real problems here on Long Island that need to be addressed, and it’s on us to make sure the state steps up and helps fix them.

By keeping the local tax levies in check, we create opportunities for our children to move back to Long Island and purchase homes of their own, and we ensure our seniors can retire with dignity in the homes they’ve lived in for decades.

I promised to find ways to make Long Island affordable, and I meant it. Today is just the first step towards delivering on that promise. It’s a new day in Albany and we’re done with the same old games that have cost Long Island for too long.

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