Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Doffing the Cap?

Consideration of a property tax cap is obviously going to be front and center in the upcoming struggle to balance the budget and reset the state's financial system.  It was one of the few specific policy changes Governor Cuomo chose to mention in his inauguration speech, and it will likely be a centerpiece in his State of the State Address tomorrow. 

Cuomo's property tax proposal is tougher and more wide-reaching than previously considered options, such as the Suozzi's commission's 4 percent cap on school district tax hikes. 

It brings up so many important and vexing political and policy issues, but one I find most intriguing is the wisdom and efficacy of governments--and the people--tying themselves to the mast in order to force themselves to achieve a broader, long-term goal--in this case flattening the spending curve.  Does such a move undermine the very point of democratic politics?  And how tightly must you tie yourself?  In some ways, it reminds me of term limits, but here it's "stop me before I spend again" instead of "stop me before I vote again."

In this case, the wiggle-room is found in super-majorities--60 percent of town and city residents could vote to override the cap within their own municipality.  So there is a democratic cap on the cap.  There are also other specific exceptions, including some state-mandated programs at the county level.

This issue will be worth following, and if you're looking for a good background overview of it, Paul Riede supplied a very nice summary of the proposal and the debate surrounding it last December in the Post-Standard.  You can find it here.

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