State Senate GOP wants to nix school taxes for seniors

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ALBANY — State Senate Republicans want homeowners who are 65 years of age and over to not have to pay any school taxes.

The provision is included in the Senate GOP’s 2018 Affordability Agenda unveiled last week. Under the measure, property owners would no longer have to pay taxes to their local school district once they turn 65 years of age. The provision would be phased in over 10 years until the school tax requirement would be fully eliminated for that age group. School taxes for seniors would be frozen over those 10 years until the full elimination takes effect, the cost of which would be absorbed by the state. How it would pay for that new cost is unknown, however.

The state currently has used its STAR program for a number of years to help homeowners save on school taxes. For the last two years, STAR savings have come in the form of rebate checks, instead of the old exemptions on tax bills.

Homeowners over the age of 65 and making $86,000 a year or less are eligible for the Enhanced STAR tax credit, which provides a greater rebate value compared to the basic STAR rebate.

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said that the new proposal was included to remedy a growing exodus from the state because of its high taxes.

“The outward migration is the most valid illustration that we have a problem,” Sen. Griffo said, adding that older state residents are increasingly moving out of state because of financial challenges. “You have this core group of our society and we just want to be sensitive to their fiscal challenges.”

But whether Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would support such a measure is in doubt, considering the state is facing a $4.4 billion deficit. The governor has repeatedly put blame on the new federal tax laws that went into effect this year and proposed several new taxes in his FY 2019 Executive Budget to offset over $1 billion of the deficit.

Sen. Griffo argued that, instead of adding more taxes, the state government should reprioritize its spending, along with capping spending permanently, so that proposals such as school tax elimination for seniors can be possible.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, agreed.

“These changes — which can be made possible with a permanent state spending cap and the elimination of waste and fraud — would help make life in New York state more affordable for our seniors and give them the opportunity to stay in their homes,” Sen. Ritchie said.

The Senate GOP Affordability Agenda is sponsored by State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma.

“By freezing property taxes for seniors at current levels this year, and gradually reducing them over the next ten years, we can make it possible for more seniors to stay in their homes and encourage them to retire in New York,” he said in a statement.

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