By Andrew M. Cuomo
A decade ago no one could have imagined the transformation of Western New York. You see it in the development happening all across the region: job-creating projects like the Buffalo Niagara Medical Corridor, the Northland Workforce Development Center, Canalside, and new hotels opening up in Niagara Falls. And the data tells a similar story: Unemployment in Western New York has been cut in half since 2010, from 8.5 then to 4.2 percent today.
But we face a new threat aimed at the heart of the Western New York middle class that could undo the progress we have achieved: the federal government. The Trump administration has tried to take away health care by dismantling the Affordable Care Act; it has undermined the organized labor movement that helped build the middle class; and it has advanced regressive environmental policies that put our communities and our planet at risk.
The most significant economic threat to New York is the cap on state and local tax deductions. While President Trump promised a tax cut for the middle class, the capping of SALT deductions goes in the opposite direction – hurting about 66,000 taxpayers in Western New York. This law – which Reps. Chris Collins and Tom Reed voted for, putting their politics over their constituents – said for the first time ever that the federal government will tax your state and local taxes, which is a double taxation.
And it takes even more money from New York to pay for tax cuts in other states, even though New York is the number one donor state in the country, sending roughly $35 billion more to Washington then we get back. All told, the SALT cap will cost New Yorkers another $15 billion.
The administration’s policies make the state’s 2 percent cap on local property taxes even more critical for New York, where the property tax burden is more than two-and-a-half times the typical state income tax burden.
In 2011, after years of trying to rein in out-of-control property taxes – Govs. George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David A. Paterson all tried – we passed the first local property tax cap. The 2 percent property tax cap changed long-term trends, and saved New Yorkers nearly $25 billion. In Western New York, it has saved taxpayers nearly $2 billion, with the typical Erie County taxpayer saving $1,235 and the typical Niagara taxpayer saving $1,182.
By every measure the tax cap has been a success, but that success is not guaranteed if it does not remain in place.
That’s why in this year’s budget I call on the State Legislature to make the 2 percent property tax cap permanent. I will not sign a budget that does not include a permanent tax cap.
We will say to homeowners, we hear you and we understand your property taxes are going to be going up because of this federal change. But we’re going to keep your property taxes constant at two percent and make this fundamental principle of fiscal responsibility permanent.
Our middle class simply cannot sustain a return to the days of skyrocketing property taxes, especially in the face of the challenges and uncertainty emanating from Washington. So let’s cap it for today. And keep it for tomorrow.
And let’s not stop there.
Let’s cut the income tax rate once again for middle-class New Yorkers to continue driving this state’s economic success. Since I took office we have cut taxes all across the board, and today every New Yorkers pays a lower income tax rate today than the day I took office. Let’s keep that going.
And let’s fight SALT until the federal government rolls back this devastating assault on our state and its taxpayers.
While this federal government turns its back on the middle class, New York stands with hardworking families more than ever and we won’t let Washington take us backwards. It’s time that the State Legislature enshrines the 2 percent local property tax cap into law so that we can send a message loud and clear that we believe in the middle class and we will fight for the middle class.
Andrew Cuomo is governor of New York State.