Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown) today expressed optimism in light of Governor Spitzers pledge to support property tax caps and will fight to hold the governor to his promise.
The crushing property tax burden has eroded our competitive business edge, forced seniors out of their homes, and caused our young adults to seek out greener pastures in neighboring states, said Fitzpatrick. For years, our conference has fought for fundamental reform to our broken property tax system, and just last year we introduced the Property Taxpayers Protection Act to provide real relief to our overburdened taxpayers. While I am pleased that the governor has finally joined our Conference in support of a property tax cap, actions speak louder than words, and the governor must remain committed to his promise to taxpayers throughout the state.
The governor announced the creation of a bi-partisan commission, led by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, to study the impacts of unfunded mandates on school districts and municipalities, identify ways to limit school spending and maintain quality education, and propose a property tax cap.
Last year, Assemblyman Fitzpatrick and the Assembly Minority Conference introduced the Property Taxpayers Protection Act, which provides for real property tax reform and relief by controlling spending and relieving school districts of unfunded mandates. The bill, which will save taxpayers $16 billion over five years, will prevent school district property tax levies from increasing by more than 4% each year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, and allow voters to override the limitation through a 2/3 vote. The bill will also require the state to fund any mandate imposed on a locality costing more than $10,000 annually or $1 million statewide. It also provides 100% reimbursement to schools for costs incurred from 4th and 8th grade math and English tests, beginning in the 2008-09 school year.
In addition, this legislation will lower county Medicaid costs and address financial accountability and transparency. Under the measure, the state will take over all costs of optional Medicaid services, and provide money for counties to buy software for Medicaid fraud investigations. An Office of Inspector General for Education will also be created to investigate financial abuse, corruption, and misconduct in schools and require that the fiscal impact of each bill be available to legislators before a vote.
The assemblyman cautioned the governor on the breadth of his spending proposals, especially with the state currently facing a $4.5 billion deficit.
State debt continues to spiral out of control, and yet the governor has once again announced bold spending initiatives without discussing how the state will fund the proposals, said Fitzpatrick. We need to rein in spending to alleviate the financial burden we place on future generations.