Insuring a Democratic Majority

On January 23, 2019, the New York State Senate passed legislation that would, if enacted, make New York’s property tax cap permanent.

The State of New York enacted a property tax cap in June 2011. The legislation prevents local governments and most school districts outside New York City from raising property tax levies more than two percent or the rate of inflation (whichever is lower) in a given year without an override vote. The cap was extended in 2015 and is currently scheduled to expire in 2020. Both Republicans and Governor Andrew Cuomo support making the property tax cap permanent.

At first blush, the Democrat-led State Senate’s passage of property tax cap legislation seems odd. Typically, progressives disfavor property tax caps because such caps make it more difficult for local governments to raise taxes and spend money on government programs. So why would Senate Democrats pass this bill?

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) believes there is one reason: Majority insurance. The last time Democrats controlled the Senate, their tenure was marked by major tax increases. Because of this and other reasons, Democratic control of the Senate lasted for only one term (from 2009 to 2010). Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) does not want a repeat of this scenario; she knows that her conference includes not just urban senators, but senators from western Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley whose constituents are concerned about property taxes. Under Leader Stewart-Cousins, Senate Democrats have moved quickly to pass a flurry of left-wing social-issue bills like the Bathroom Bill, the Boss Bill, the Counselor Coercion Bill, and—worst of all—the Reproductive Health Act. Leader Stewart-Cousins is likely gambling that the suburban voters represented by some members of her conference will put up with her radical social agenda as long as their property taxes do not skyrocket.

Time will tell.