Mandate Relief Must Be Part Of Tax Relief Plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address Wednesday puts some meat to his proposed tax relief plan.

Area residents should be encouraged by Cuomo’s plan to reduce the corporate income tax rate to 6.5 percent, the lowest corporate rate since 1968, to cut the tax rate for upstate manufacturers even further to 2.5 percent, the lowest rate ever, and cut property taxes on manufacturers by 20 percent through a state credit program. Each is an additional tool for development officials to use while trying to lure good-paying jobs to Chautauqua County.

Area residents should be just as excited about Cuomo’s attempts to encourage local property tax reduction, but we fear the lack of identifiable mandate relief short-circuits the governor’s program.

Cuomo proposes a two-year property tax freeze for taxpayers living in municipalities that stay under a 2 percent cap on annual property tax increases during the first year of the freeze. In the second year, taxpayers would receive the tax break if their municipality implements a plan for shared services or administrative consolidation. Obviously, area municipalities should do all they can to qualify for the program, but the governor needs to be more clear what qualifies as shared services and consolidation of administrative costs.

Cuomo also proposed a property tax “circuit breaker” that would provide tax relief in the form of a refundable tax credit for people earning up to $200,000. Those eligible for the tax credit would have to live in a municipality that adheres to the property tax cap.

Tax relief for citizens and businesses is a step in the right direction. Two years with no tax increases is a wonderful incentive to spur much-needed mergers and consolidations, but we’re afraid citizens won’t see a penny’s worth of savings without mandate relief. An appendix to a 2011 report by the state Mandate Relief Redesign Team with page after page of suggestions provides a good starting point, as is the oft-requested, never granted request for Wicks Law and Triborough Amendment to the state Taylor Law reform.

Cuomo’s tax relief plan is a good start. Substantial mandate relief is needed to finish the job.