AP: Budget plan PDF Print E-mail
Written by MICHAEL GORMLEY, Associated Press Writer   
Saturday, March 31, 2007

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Property taxpayers would receive hundreds of dollars back in tax rebate checks and property tax savings under the state budget now tentatively agreed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer and legislative leaders.
Budget bills were being printed Friday. Lawmakers will return to session Saturday to pass the $121 billion budget for 2007-08 by midnight, in time for the start of the fiscal year.
Under the proposed $1.3 billion in property tax relief:

  • In Erie County, a typical taxpayer with about $100,000 in household income would get a $505 tax rebate check and a $337 savings from the state's STAR benefit that subsidizes local school taxes. That total savings of $842 compares to a total savings of $684 last year.

  • In Nassau County, a typical taxpayer would get a $939 check and $660 under STAR. That $1,566 total compares to $1,216 received last year.

  • In Monroe County, a typical taxpayer would get a $646 check and a $429 STAR break. That $1,075 total compares to $873 last year.

  • In Westchester County, a typical taxpayer would get a $1,750 check and a $1,167 STAR break. That $2,917 total compares to $2,372 last year.

Other Spitzer had pushed for the property tax relief through STAR alone aimed mostly at middle class families with a cutoff for New Yorkers earning $230,000 or more. He agreed to change the limits to include more New Yorkers in the face of opposition by the Senate's Republican majority. Senators argued every taxpayer deserved a rebate from the current fiscal year's surplus.
The Senate GOP had also pushed for the relief to be put in checks. Spitzer also agreed to cut the rebate fund by $200 million. That was transferred to provide more school aid to high-taxed Long Island schools, a goal of the Senate's Republican majority.
''It changes the direction,'' Spitzer said Friday of the tax relief package he promised in last year's campaign. He called the tax relief meaningful savings especially if used year after year to save for college, retirement or for a home addition.
''So when we begin to ratchet down that property tax, people will find it more economically viable to stay here,'' Spitzer said, citing the exodus of college educated New Yorkers to opportunities and lower costs of living in other states.
''As I've said before, this is not just a glib answer, it takes years and years to build these numbers to the point where they may be so significant that you wake up one day and say, 'Wow, look at that.'
''But you begin with a $1,000 reduction in property taxes, next year another $1,000 on top of that, and pretty soon you're talking about an amount of money that will fundamentally change our competitive position,'' he said.
Spitzer detailed more of the agreements Friday. They include:
  • Legislative approval for the ''false claims act'' that will allow lawyers to act on Medicaid fraud and keep part of the savings to the state. The law has helped other states recover millions of dollars.

  • $1 billion in savings from the $45 billion Medicaid system will in part pay for insuring 400,000 children, one of his campaign goals.

  • A $75 million reduction in broad corporate taxes and $75 million in tax cuts for manufacturers.

  • $500 million over four years to municipalities, with most going to ''distressed'' municipalities, most of which would be upstate. That aid would also be tied to fiscal accountability measures.

  • $1.2 billion for transportation projects, which Spitzer said is critical to attract and retain employers.

  • Adding 106 jobs to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, mostly in enforcement of laws and regulations. Revenue from fees should offset the cost.

  • Added spending to Spitzer's Jan. 31 proposal includes $440 million to education, $350 million to health and Medicaid spending, and $45 million for higher education.
  • /ul
    A joint Senate-Assembly budget committee said an agreement wasn't reached on Spitzer's education accountability measures by Friday afternoon.
    Spitzer wants to make sure district superintendents, administrators, even school board members improve academic performance and prove that increased funds were spent wisely. Penalties could include firing workers and removing school board members. Spitzer also will make achieving job-protecting tenure for teachers more rigorous.



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