Last week, Governor Cuomo announced that he and his senior staff would tour the state in order to speak directly to the people of New York about, among other issues, creating a property tax cap, cleaning up Albany by passing ethics reform, and passing a marriage equality bill. Governor Cuomo said that all of these issues must be addressed during the current legislative session and asked New Yorkers to call their legislators and urge them to act.
"My team is crisscrossing the state to meet with New Yorkers and to speak about how we can all work together to pass this vital legislation before the end of session," Governor Cuomo said. "Our message is clear: when New Yorkers speak, the politicians in Albany will listen. When people are actively engaged in their government, we can make New York the Empire State once again."
"We are here in Suffolk County today to speak directly to New Yorkers about Governor Cuomo's roadmap for reform," Lieutenant Governor Duffy said. "Our legislative agenda will move our state forward by achieving a property tax cap, ethics reform, and marriage equality for all. We are bringing government right to the people and working collaboratively with New Yorkers to deliver real change for our state."
The Governor's People First campaign focuses on three specific legislative priorities:
Property Tax Cap:
New Yorkers pay among the highest property taxes in the nation, forcing families to sell their homes and move out of state. Massive property tax increases also discourage businesses from investing and creating jobs. In the last decade, property taxes have increased a staggering 73 percent that's twice the rate of inflation.
Governor Cuomo has proposed a comprehensive tax cap that would control property taxes. Under his plan:
- Local school districts and governments could only raise property taxes each year by 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
- All governments would be included under this plan, and few exemptions would be allowed.
- Local communities and local voters would retain control, however, and could override the cap. For school boards it would require a 60 percent vote on the budget, and for non-school boards it would require a two-thirds vote of the responsible legislative body.
Ultimately, the property tax cap would give much-needed relief to New York taxpayers and encourage local governments and school districts to be more efficient and make the most of their resources.
New York State government used to be a symbol of integrity and performance, but we have lost that standard. To clean up the government and restore trust with New Yorkers, we need to pass a new ethics law that mandates transparency and full disclosure as well as a law that calls for a real independent monitor.
Among many reforms, the Governor's ethics reform agenda would:
- Require disclosure of clients doing business with the state that are represented by legislators before the state and disclosure of how much they get paid.
- Require the creation of an independent body to provide oversight and enforcement of ethics rules because, as we have seen in the past, self-policing does not work.
- Require lobbyists to disclose any business relationship with legislators in excess of $1,000.
- Strip pensions from those public officials convicted of a felony related to the abuse of their official duties.
Despite our state's proud tradition as the progressive capital of the nation, on the issue of marriage equality, New York has sadly lagged behind. While gay and lesbian New Yorkers can drive to Massachusetts or Connecticut to be married, such marriages are not permitted in New York. In the face of New York's failure to act and to lead, states like New Hampshire, Iowa, Vermont, and the District of Columbia have all recognized the importance of marriage equality and now allow same-sex couples to marry.
Governor Cuomo has repeatedly said that it is time to for our state to retake our leading role in guaranteeing equal rights for all. This is about civil rights and equality. Denying marriage to all undermines the very dignity and legitimacy that our state routinely provides to other couples.
Barring marriage equality denies same-sex couples and their families over 1,000 federal and 700 state rights that are afforded to millions of New Yorkers. For instance, spouses have hospital visitation rights and can make medical decisions in the event of illness or disability. Employers offer spouses sick leave, bereavement leave, as well as access to health insurance and pensions. Also, the law provides certain rights to a person's spouse regardless of whether or not a will exists. None of these rights exist for same-sex couples in the absence of marriage.
The Assembly has passed marriage equality legislation in previous legislative sessions but in 2009, the bill failed to pass the Senate.
Governor Cuomo has repeatedly indicated that for real reform to occur in New York, he must make his case directly to the people of the state. Explaining the issues and maintaining an open dialogue allows New Yorkers to form an opinion, organize, and make Albany act.
For more information about the People First tour, visit www.NYPeopleFirst.com.