Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced details of a final agreement on a number of major priorities for the end of the 2015-16 legislative session.
Governor Cuomo said: “Today, we have reached an agreement on robust, comprehensive reforms that put the people of New York first. We are strengthening rent laws and extending them for four years in the New York City area to protect more than two million tenants. We are also extending the property tax cap and creating a $1.3 billion property tax rebate program to provide significant relief to homeowners across the state. And we are providing $250 million to support the education of roughly 400,000 students in the state’s non-public schools. These are the kinds of reforms that keep New York moving forward, creating a better life and livelihood for people in virtually every corner of the state, and I am proud to have fought to make them a reality.”
The legislation introduced today contains a variety of significant reforms and actions, including:
Strengthening and Extending Rent Laws in New York City and Other Metropolitan Areas
The New York metropolitan region’s rent laws will be extended for four years, and will be made retroactive to June 15, 2015. Further, additional reforms will be made to strengthen these laws, including:
- Increasing and indexing the high rent threshold to the applicable rent guidelines board (rent guidelines boards apply different rents to different geographic areas). This will make it more difficult for units to be removed from rent regulation because it will allow for the high rent watermark to float based on the rent guidelines board increases.
- Vacancy decontrol limits will be increased to $2,700, and annual increases thereafter will be indexed to the Rent Guidelines Board.
- Increasing civil harassment penalties. These provisions increase monetary penalties imposed on landlords who harass tenants by approximately $1,000, to $3,000 for each offense and up to $11,000 for each offense where the owner harassed a tenant to obtain a vacancy.
- Extends the Major Capital Improvement amortization period from 84 months to 108 for buildings over 35 units and 84 months to 96 for buildings under 35 units. The legislation limits the amount of rent that landlords can charge tenants in order to receive reimbursement for necessary improvements or installations.
- Limits the vacancy bonus provided to landlords on tenants who receive preferential rent as a way to stop the “churn” on these units.
Extending the Property Tax Cap and Cutting Taxes for Homeowners
The legislation extends the property tax cap for an additional four years. Since its enactment in 2011, the real property tax cap has dramatically reduced the growth in local property taxes. Through the first three years of the Cap, the typical property taxpayer has saved more than $800, compared to if taxes had continued to grow at the previous growth rate. If the trend continues, by 2017, the typical taxpayer will have saved more than $2,100 in local property taxes as a result of the Cap.
Building on the success of the property tax cap, the legislation includes a new Property Tax Credit that will provide more than $3.1 billion over four years in direct relief to struggling New York taxpayers. The program is progressively structured so that taxpayers with lower incomes receive a higher benefit.
In the first year, 2016, the program will be coupled with the existing Property Tax Freeze credit to provide a total average credit of $350. Beginning in 2017, the program will provide property tax relief based on a percentage of a homeowner’s STAR benefit, with lower incomes receiving a larger percentage. All homeowners with incomes below $275,000 who live in school districts that comply with the property tax cap will be eligible to receive the credit. This year, 98 percent of school districts complied with the cap. When the program is fully phased-in for benefits provided in 2019, it will provide $1.3 billion of property tax relief and an average credit of $530.
Additionally, this agreement creates a program that will help communities that face decreased property tax revenue as a result of the loss or reduction in tax payments from power plants and other facilities that close in their community.
For New York City residents, the legislation extends by four years the $85 million, progressively structured “Circuit Breaker” tax relief program. Qualifying homeowners and renters with incomes below $200,000 are eligible to receive a refundable tax credit against the personal income tax when their property taxes or rent exceeds a certain percentage of their income.
NY has disproportionately high property taxes. This $1.3 billion rebate program will go a long way towards giving New Yorkers real relief.
Extending and Reforming 421-a
The legislation extends the 421-a program for six months, with a provision that allows representatives of labor and industry groups to reach a memorandum of understanding regarding wage protections for construction workers. If such an agreement is reached, the program will automatically be extended for four years.
Investing in Education
The legislation also includes major advancements in education policy and assistance for nonpublic schools in New York State. These include:
- Increased funding of $250 million to reimburse private schools for the costs of performing State-mandated services.
- The Parental Empowerment Act which requires additional disclosure of state exam questions and answers, the creation of a test content review committee by the State Education Department, and clarification of required components of the student growth model for teacher evaluations.
- A one-year extension of mayoral control of the New York City school system.
- An increase in the number of charter schools available to be issued in New York City to 50 and enhanced flexibility in teacher certification rules.
- $25 million to help resolve the acute financial challenges currently being faced by the Yonkers School District and $6 million to support programs to combat child poverty in the City of Rochester.
Finally, the legislation also amends current law to allow the sitting governor, or former governors, to officiate marriages in the State of New York. Previously, Governors could only solemnize marriages ceremonially, unless they were also ordained ministers.
Making sure the public system is strong and the nonpublic system is strong is vital for both and this bill does just that.
Building on Progress
The Governor and legislative leaders also recently reached agreements on two other significant packages of legislation – the first ensuring that private colleges in the state establish a uniform and comprehensive set of policies to protect students from sexual violence, and the second giving the state the authority to crack down on bad actors in the nail salon industry, while also establishing a new licensing program to help workers acquire new skills. Last week, the Governor and legislative leaders also reached an agreement on a bill to codify comprehensive reforms to overhaul the port authority of New York and New Jersey.
These reforms also build on the earlier accomplishments secured during the first half of the legislative session, including:
- Landmark education reforms and a $1.3 billion increase in state education aid, bringing total state funding to $23.5 billion – the highest in New York’s history;
- New ethics laws to deter, detect and punish breaches of the public trust, including the nation’s strongest disclosure requirements for outside income;
- $5.4 billion investment in programs and initiatives to grow New York’s economy (such as the $1.5 billion Upstate Revitalization Initiative, a $1.3 billion investment in the New York State Thruway, and $500 million to establish the New NY Broadband Program and ensure statewide high-speed broadband access by the end of 2018); and
- An economic mobility agenda that includes investments in affordable housing, student loan relief, MWBE support, and homeless and hunger assistance programs.
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