New York teachers fight against property tax cap

A campaign has been launched by New York teachers and other labor allies to fight against a proposed property tax cap being promoted by New York Governor Mario Cuumo and his allies from both the Democratic and Republican parties. The campaign includes a 30-second TV ad that is available on You Tube.

The NYSUT story on the campaign follows here:

ALBANY, N.Y. June 3, 2011 – 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 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 877-255-9417 and 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.


Reject the Tax Cap

A cap in New York property taxes would devastate schools and is no substitute for leadership.

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

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.


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