Finding Common Ground Between
New York Business and Labor
June 7, 2011 

Dear Friends,


Since 2008 BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, has been supportive of the Circuit Breaker approach to property tax reform in New York State, as our BALCONY co-chairs Bruce Ventimiglia (business) and Alan Lubin (labor)  both testified at the Suozzi Commission in opposition to a Property Tax Cap . We believe that a Circuit Breaker is the most equitable way to protect middle income and working families from paying too much of their income in property taxes. At the same time, we are opposed to a property tax cap which would harm our state's students, our schools and our families. An across the board property tax cap solution doesn't work everywhere. One size does not fit all. Poorer districts would be unable to raise the revenues they need to provide the education their children deserve.


Tax Cap 


As BALCONY co-chair Bruce Ventimiglia of Saratoga Capital Management stated, "The passage of property tax caps in New York would create a statewide educational disaster. At the very moment when American society is making an unprecedented transition from a manufacturing economy to a knowledge-based one, a New York State property tax cap would deprive our school districts of the necessary finances to support this sea change. Today's student is tomorrow's information specialist. Without the proper training and technical access of the Information Society, this transition will be incomplete and our entire country will suffer. Education is the oxygen of our children's' future, we must not choke it off with a tax cap. While property tax reform is indeed important, it makes no sense to cap the one tax that is almost universally supported by New York State citizens."


The following BALCONY report includes Bill Samuels' rejection of the Tax Cap, the NYSUT "ad blitz", The New York Times Editorial of May 25 in opposition to the Cuomo Tax Cap, and the recent Anti-Tax Cap Coalition News Release.


This report is a call to action to our BALCONY coalition and supporters urging you to join the battle by contacting your legislators at 877-255-9417 and tell them, "This tax cap won't work for anyone" to oppose the ill-conceived, destructive property tax cap in New York State.






NYSUT Begins Ad Blitz
Against Destructive

Property Tax Cap


ALBANY, N.Y. - Deeply concerned that a property tax cap "deal" hammered out by Albany leaders would destroy the ability of public schools to meet student needs - while also failing to provide the real tax relief that New Yorkers want - New York State United Teachers today launched a new television ad campaign opposing the ill-conceived plan the New York Times called "nothing more than a political crutch."


The $1.3 million statewide ad, which can be found at www.nysut.org and on NYSUT's YouTube channel, quotes a scathing May 26 Times editorial that declared the proposed tax cap would "do huge damage to already struggling schools and the state's long-term economic competitiveness" at a time when public education is already reeling from more than $3 billion in state education cuts since 2008-09.


The proposed cap, which is also strongly opposed by the New York State AFL-CIO and the state NAACP, would lock in inequities stemming from three years of painful education cuts and exacerbate the achievement gap, which schools have been working diligently to close.


"Make no mistake, educators are taxpayers, too, and support real, meaningful tax relief," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "The agreement reached by the governor and Legislature fails to provide that relief. Instead, it would lead to the elimination of needed programs, even more overcrowded classrooms and thousands and thousands of additional layoffs. The impact on municipalities would cripple community colleges and prevent local governments from providing the essential public services that middle-class New Yorkers need."

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta added, "The only thing this 'deal' caps is the ability of educators and their schools to help students meet high standards. If enacted, it would destroy our schools by undemocratically allowing 40 percent of the voters to decide how much money local communities could spend to fund valuable education programs."


The 30-second ad, which is running on network and cable stations statewide for at least 10 days, notes the Times' editorial also called the proposed tax cap deal "disastrous," hurting students, schools and families.


The ad urges viewers to call the Legislature and governor at 877-255-9417and tell them, "This tax cap won't work for anyone."


NYSUT, the state's largest union, represents more than 600,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.



BALCONY joins Diverse Groups to Urge State Leaders to Put Brakes on New Tax Cap Plan - Tax Caps will NOT Provide Any Relief, Will Take Away Local Control and Hurt Local Services - Property Tax Groups Plan to "Elevate" the Issue - Will Ride Capital Elevators to Deliver Message 


Albany, NY - A diverse array of organizations from across NYS will ask our elected officials to rethink the 2% hard property tax cap as the answer to our state's property tax woes. The tax cap will not help the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers that are already paying double digit percentages of their income in property taxes. Tax Caps will also limit local control and severely hamper the delivery of services in communities throughout this state. Many of the groups are also urging state leaders to broaden the discussion to include tax relief measures that would link property taxes to individual income in the form of a circuit breaker.


"Since 2008 BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, has been supportive of the Circuit Breaker approach to property tax reform in New York State. This is the most equitable way to protect middle income and working families from paying too much of their income in property taxes. At the same time, we are opposed to a property tax cap which would harm our state's students, our schools and our families. An across the board property tax cap solution doesn't work everywhere. One size does not fit all. Poorer districts would be unable to raise the revenues they need to provide the education their children deserve," stated BALCONY Director Lou Gordon.


BALCONY MEMBER Bill Samuels, Chairman of the Carlyle Capital Group LLC and founder of the New Roosevelt Initiative stated, "While I am a big supporter of increasing productivity, streamlining state government, rational cost-cutting and controlling property taxes over the long-term, New York will not become a top destination for corporate investment and business relocation through cuts alone. The willful decision to cut taxes for the wealthy in the budget is part of the reason this oversimplified legislation is flawed and painful. Education is the most important consideration for businesses in either deciding to relocate to New York or to stay here, and this legislation would have serious ramifications in this regard.


The tax cap is ill-timed and conceived and should be tabled until later in the year, when there is more specificity on both its ramifications and on mandate reform." Many believe that the circuit breaker is the best mechanism to relieve the burden on individual taxpayers and is desperately needed as a stop gap measure to prevent more New Yorkers from losing their homes.


"A cap will not lower anyone's property tax bills, and has the potential to seriously undermine public education and emergency services, lowering home values in the process," said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern). "We must ensure reform provides actual tax relief while also protecting schools, public safety and homeowners' equity, which is why a circuit breaker isn't just a viable alternative, but truly the only viable option."
"New York State needs property tax relief now. All options need to be on the table including a circuit breaker," said Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel.


"The tax cap is a politically popular program that will ultimately not have the effect of providing the desired tax relief many New Yorkers desperately need," said Betsey Swan, President, League of Women Voters of New York.


"Over the years, the state has cut personal income taxes, mostly for the wealthy, the easy way, by shifting its costs to counties and their property taxpayers. Not a bad deal for Albany: the rich get a break, everyone keeps their services, and counties pay the bills. We agree this can't go on, that property taxes are too high. But a tax cap leaves them high, while mandate relief actually lowers property taxes. It's about time the Governor and the Legislature kept their promise: We need more than an IOU on mandate relief," said Martha Robertson, Chair, Tompkins County Legislature.


NYS Assessors Association Director Tom Frey stated, "The New York State Assessors' Association has long been in support of the concept of a workable circuit breaker law. The ability to ease the burden of property tax based on your ability to pay has been successfully used with the Senior Citizen exemption for many years. The problem with this exemption is that it only helps property owners over 65 years of age and pushes the tax burden to the rest of the taxpayers. With a circuit breaker that doesn't happen; the tax bill is paid in full and then a credit on your state income tax or a refund check provides the relief.


"The final question will be this: how will legislators reconcile constituent expectations for tax relief with the true cost of a tax cap that erodes the educational and economic well-being of their home districts," stated Rick Longhurst, Executive Administrator, NYS PTA.


"Many community members from throughout Westchester County are OPPOSED to the Cuomo/Skelos/Silver tax cap proposal. While we understand the need to contain taxes in New York State, we disagree with proposal's means to achieve that end. The proposal, if enacted, would severely erode public education in New York State," said Arthur Rublin, Chair, The Coalition for Scarsdale Schools.


"Every form of proposed property tax cap strips local governments of their ability to govern and manage to greater or lesser extent. Property tax cap legislation is unnecessary, undemocratic, unwise and unworkable in any form. State officials should stop looking for a quick headline and leave local affairs to locally elected officials and to the people who elect them," said Anthony Solfaro, President, New York State Union of Police Associations, Inc.


The tax cap is ill-timed and conceived and should be tabled until later in the year, when there is more specificity on both its ramifications and on mandate reform."


"Whatever the perceived merits of the tax cap, it will not provide property tax relief," stated John Whiteley of the NYS Property Tax Reform Coalition. "The biggest problem today is the individual burden faced by hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers already paying unsustainable, double digit percentages of their income in property tax. A stand alone cap will probably make their situation worse. A circuit breaker is the only measure that will really help them, and it is needed NOW. There are responsible ways to fund it, and it must be an integral part of the discussions that will be taking place on the property tax cap issue, along with mandate relief."


"How unfortunate that desperate property taxpayers are being told that relief is coming in the form of a tax cap. Government never ceases to fail the very public they are elected to serve. How easy to offer sound bites yet how hard it will be to educate our children and provide services to our communities. Senator Bonacic (S4171) and Assemblywoman Jaffee (A7673) have offered a real solution for tax relief with a revenue stream to pay for it. However, those who by virtue of being millionaires and can afford to live in New York are being taken care of. The rest of us are deemed irrelevant, "said Susan Zimet, Ulster County Legislator and CEO of Zimet Group, Inc.


"The targeting of tax relief to those with the most need based on income is a far more effective strategy than a simple cap which would also drain resources for senior programs," stated Maria Alvarez, Executive Director, Statewide Senior Action Council.


"A cap will only further cement a system that is criticized by most everyone and it will widen the gap between the haves and the have nots. Governor Christie of NJ learned the painful truth that taxpayers figure these things out quickly enough and his falling poll numbers reflect it," said Robert McKeon, TREND (Tax Reform Effort of Northern Dutchess)


"The Cap, even with a substantial circuit breaker, will disrupt and divide our state ...the cap without a substantial circuit breaker would be an unmitigated disaster...and - when the damage has been done- it will be too late for buyer's remorse.
said Gioia Shebar,Taxnightmare.org coordinator.


"Imposing a cap on property taxes will stunt student progress, particularly in high needs districts where students are already struggling. Last month, nearly 70% of districts in poor communities failed to pass their school budgets with a super majority as required by the proposal. On the heels of the devastating $1.3 billion cut to schools a cap will deny resources and be an impediment to on -time graduation for far too many children which will mean an even further step backwards," said Nikki Jones, Alliance for Quality Education Communications Director.


Ron Deutsch, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness said, "We no longer seem to be debating issues in Albany. The property tax discussion needs to be broadened. Just because the Governor believes the Tax Cap is the answer does not make it so. We must continue to look for the fairest and most equitable ways to fix our upside down tax system that takes the pressure off of the property tax and places it onto state taxes based on ability to pay."


"Let's be clear: tax caps will not lower anyone's taxes. Tax caps will not help anyone who cannot afford their current property taxes. Tax caps will not change the demand or need for local services. In fact, during these recessionary years, we have seen a strong increase in the need for government services, stated Harriet Cornell, Chairwomen, Rockland County Legislature. "Governor Cuomo, I support your initiative and determination, I support your leadership, but I respectfully say that any tax cap legislation on local governments like Rockland must take into account the costs we are mandated to provide by the state and federal governments and make adjustments accordingly-either by excluding all costs of programs mandated by the state and federal governments from the property tax cap equation or by providing some other form of significant mandate relief so county property taxes can pay for the programs required by our residents.



There IS a Better Way; New Yorkers Need Real Property Tax Relief Now, Why the Cuomo Tax Cap Won't Help and What Will  


by Bill Samuels  


Bill SamuelsAs a businessman I am keenly aware of the importance of keeping spending in line with revenue, so I understand that New York State's deepening budget crisis requires swift and decisive action from Albany. But as a New Yorker, I want solutions that do not unfairly place the burden of Albany's mess on local communities and families.


Governor Cuomo currently supports putting a 2% property tax cap into effect to curb spending at the local level and keep property taxes stable.


A tax cap provides a great political sound bite and appeals to all taxpayers, but the truth is that those who need genuine tax relief are guaranteed no break at all under a tax cap.


There must be a better way.


One idea I support) is to provide real and immediate personal property tax relief by making property taxes proportional to household income. The concept is known as a property tax circuit breaker.


The property tax circuit breaker is designed to interrupt ballooning property taxes before they overload our communities by changing the way household property taxes are calculated and collected.


The most important function of the circuit breaker is to prevent rising property taxes from overloading any individual household by setting a maximum percentage of total household income that is subject to property taxes.This would provide immediate property tax relief to working families allowing them to stay in their homes or avoid moving out of state.


The circuit breaker combined with mandate relief is a better and fairer approach than the 2% property tax cap.


Bill Samuels is Chairman of Carlyle Capital Group, LLC, and a member of BALCONY.



NY Times 

Reject the Tax Cap
May 25, 2011 Editorial 


Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have already adopted a state budget that drastically cuts funds to schools and local communities - cuts that were far deeper than needed to balance the budget because of Mr. Cuomo's indefensible refusal to extend a tax surcharge on New York's wealthiest residents. Now they want to adopt a cheap political tool - a 2 percent property tax cap - that would only further devastate communities around the state that can least afford it.


Mr. Cuomo calls the proposal "a game changer." He's right. In the same way that Proposition 13 has ravaged California, a New York property tax cap would do huge damage to already struggling schools and the state's long-term economic competitiveness. California's education system was once the envy of the nation. Education Week now ranks it 46th for achievement in grades K-12, below Alabama and South Carolina. New York schools currently rank 8th. For how much longer?


Not surprising, the Albany politicians and business leaders championing the tax cap don't like to talk about California. Instead, they point to Massachusetts, which capped property taxes at 2.5 percent in 1980. It wasn't a happy tale there, either. Communities starved of needed revenues were forced to lay off teachers, police officers and firefighters and to shut libraries and senior centers.


Massachusetts schools suffered so badly that the Legislature had to pump in more and more state financing, especially to the poorer school districts.


Mr. Cuomo and other backers insist that communities will still have a choice. The cap could be overridden by a vote of 60 percent of residents in the tax district. (Whatever happened to a simple democratic majority?) Wealthier taxpayers may well vote that way, especially to maintain good schools. It is far less likely to happen in the poorer districts.

When New York's politicians go on about how New York fails to draw businesses because of high taxes, even they must know that's ridiculous. Taxes generally rank behind education, infrastructure and other criteria when businesses decide to relocate and invest. Employees and bosses want to know about the schools. Business owners want to know if there is an educated work force. No public services? Who wants to move or work there?


Let's be clear: A tax cap is nothing more than a political crutch for politicians who don't have the courage to argue the case for more taxes or for spending cuts.


Mr. Cuomo, the Legislature and local politicians have to make the tough decisions to raise revenue and wrestle down personnel costs, streamline services and rationalize costly state mandates.


Property taxes in New York are undeniably high. But a tax cap is not the answer. It is an invitation to disaster.







4 West 43rd Street, Suite 406
NewYork, NY 10036





Alan Lubin - Labor 

Bruce Ventimiglia - Business 


Lou Gordon - BALCONY Director


Kristina Siapkara - Research Director
Diane Masters - Development Administrator 

BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, represents more than 1,000 New York businesses, labor unions, and trade associations.

BALCONY seeks common ground in the public policy debate in New York to spur economic development through the adoption of business/union friendly, socially responsible common sense laws that maintain and improve the quality of life for working New Yorkers.