To address these problems, this week I submitted two bills to the Legislature; a Constitutional amendment for a spending cap in Albany and a long-overdue cap on property taxes.
A Constitutional amendment to cap state spending will give voters the opportunity – through a statewide referendum – to make the final decision about the long-term solution to our current fiscal crisis. Everyday New Yorkers, and not elected officials or special interests, should get to decide if they want Albany to spend within its means.
From the 2002-03 Fiscal Year to 2007-08, state operating funds spending grew from $52.8 billion to $77 billion, an average annual rate of 7.86 percent. But if my spending cap had been in place in 2002, New York's annual spending growth during that period would have averaged 2.7 percent and spending would have been $16.6 billion lower in 2008.
Many of the dramatic and painful budget decisions that we have had to make in the last two years would have been unnecessary. I urge the Legislature to act on this proposal so it can move forward through the constitutional process toward a full vote by the people of New York.
While previous property tax cap proposals focused exclusively on capping the growth of school property taxes – which comprise approximately 60 to 70 percent of the average property tax bill – my bill would cap all local property tax growth.
My proposed property tax cap that would limit tax levy growth for all school districts, counties, cities, towns, villages, special districts and fire districts to four percent or 120 percent of the annual increase in the consumer price index, whichever is less. The bill is based on the recommendations of the Commission on Property Tax Relief, which found that New York’s local taxes are the highest in the nation – 78 percent above the national average.
We will need to address our current budget deficit through tough choices and spending cuts. But we also have a responsibility to correct mismanagement in government, demonstrating to all New Yorkers that we can restrain our appetite for spending and help ease their tax burden. If the Legislature works with me now, we can prevent this kind of crisis for future generations.
The structural reforms that I have proposed through the spending and property tax cap will end New York’s disruptive practice of boom-and-bust cycle budgeting and put us on the road to recovery. Long-term reform will break Albany of its bad habits and ensure that New Yorkers have the final say in their fiscal future and the fiscal future of New York State.