In Westchester Address, Cuomo Advises Counties To Consolidate Services To Lower Property Taxes

PURCHASE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo took his State of the State address tour to the suburbs on Tuesday.

As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, Cuomo is now prodding local governments to consolidate services so as to save money and lower property taxes.

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In his second of six State of the State messages, Cuomo delivered what for all the world felt like a campaign rally speech – this one at SUNY Purchase in Westchester County. It came just hours before Cuomo was to head down to Farmingdale on Long Island.

The speech was a remarkable blend of spending and proposed cuts in some of the highest property taxes in America.

Supporters insist it can be done.

“It’s not impossible,” said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. “It’s something we really need to talk about. I like the words he’s using.”

In Westchester County, the governor spent a lot of time on why property taxes are so high – decrying the proliferation of local governments, duplicated services, and suggesting county executives take charge and get municipalities to cooperate with each other and share.

“This will be a program where the county executive brings them together; finds ways to save money,” Cuomo said.

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It is no small irony that Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is a political rival who was not invited to the address and who said the advice to local leaders is a distraction from the cost of Cuomo’s proposed state spending.

“The money can only come from one person, the taxpayer, and they’re going to get hit hard – traumatically — all the time to pay for free college tuition. Nothing is free,” Astorino said. “Look, he’s running for president. We all know it.

Astorino himself is likely running for governor again, as he did in 2014. Still, politics aside, watchdogs put the cost of Cuomo’s proposals this week – including parks, housing, airports and railroads – at $4 billion dollars and climbing.

The head of the Citizens Budget Committee said there is another big shoe about to drop.

“I don’t think he’s proposing these things without some proposals on how to pay for them,” said Carol Kellerman of the commission. “Those, perhaps those more unpleasant realities, are being saved for the budget message next week.”

It could be a continued tax on high-earners – another way to burnish progressive credentials in a possible national political contest.

In a statement sent to CBSNewYork Tuesday night, a spokeswoman for the governor said that he has brought fiscal responsibility back to New York by “keeping spending under 2 percent per year for the first time in the state’s history and lowering outstanding debt for the past four years in a row.”

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“He has done this while driving forward a progressive agenda to deliver for New York’s middle class through investments in infrastructure, education and job creation,” the statement continued. “New York has the highest credit rating in decades and we look forward to passing another on-time, balanced budget that responsibly delivers for New York taxpayers.”