ALBANY, N.Y. August 8, 2008 - New York State United Teachers said the tax cap bill passed by the Senate today would be devastating for public education while not providing a penny's worth of real property tax savings.
"The Senate today chose political expediency and the illusion of property tax relief over a real, meaningful solution - a restructuring of our property tax system based on equity, income and ability to pay," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "A circuit breaker would reduce property taxes for senior citizens and working New Yorkers – those who need relief the most. Basing property taxes on income and ability to pay - not an arbitrary number dreamed up by an Albany commission - is the right direction for New York state."
Iannuzzi said the Senate's tax cap legislation could ultimately lead to cuts in education programs, while thwarting New York's efforts to close the achievement gap. "Without a doubt, a tax cap will further divide the 'haves' from the 'have-nots,' hurting poor children more because tax caps lock in existing funding inequities. In addition, poor communities simply do not have the ability to raise local funds to support their schools," Iannuzzi added.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin noted the Senate approved a separate bill that included several cost-saving measures that would help school districts, including reducing districts' expenses for employee pensions, transportation and paperwork. "It's a good concept, but it comes without adequate funding. While we support the goals of this bill, passing it as a separate bill is an empty gesture," he said.
"We will continue to work with the Assembly and the Governor to see that this bad policy bill will not become a bad law," Lubin said, noting the union would work with all parties to find cost-savings, efficiencies and other initiatives to provide legitimate property tax relief.
Tax caps have failed in California, Massachusetts and other states, leading to layoffs and devastating cuts to education and other essential public services, Lubin said. "New York should not make the same mistake. We will continue our discussions with the governor and legislative leaders to find efficiencies and savings and lower property taxes, without hurting children and public schools."
NYSUT 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.