ALBANY, N.Y. /New York Netwire/ — New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today traveled to Westchester County to sign New York’s first property tax cap. The tax cap, a hallmark of Governor Cuomo’s campaign and a priority of his administration’s first year, will finally deliver relief to millions of homeowners and business owners across the state who for too long have been burdened by out-of-control property taxes.

Governor Cuomo signed the property tax cap at the home of Russell and Tara Klein in Pleasantville. Like many taxpayers in Westchester County, the Kleins, parents of four children, have made sacrifices to afford the state’s skyrocketing property taxes. Mr. Klein is a small business owner. They pay more than $16,000 annually in property taxes, over four times the median property tax bill in New York state. This law will provide meaningful tax relief to the Klein family and other homeowners across New York.

“We are beginning a new era in which New York will no longer be the tax capital of the nation,” Governor Cuomo said. “For too long New Yorkers across the state have been forced to deal with back-breaking property taxes, and this tax cap will finally bring some relief and help keep families and businesses in New York. This tax cap is a critical step toward New York’s economic recovery, and will set our state on a path to prosperity.”

Taxpayers in Westchester County, like the Kleins, pay the second highest property taxes in the nation, with a median property tax bill of $8,474 per household. In comparison, the median U.S. property tax bill is $1,917, while in New York the median property tax bill is $3,755.

Under the new law, property tax increases will be capped at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Local communities and local voters could override the cap with a 60 percent vote on the budget for school boards or relevant legislative bodies.

New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins said: “This is a significant accomplishment for Governor Cuomo and the Legislature. The Governor’s bill that we passed last Friday shows that we are serious about turning our state around and making New York better. Backbreaking property taxes have driven families and small businesses out of our county and state and unfunded mandates have placed unnecessary burdens on local governments. This bill not only delivers much needed tax relief to homeowners, but it provides great steps forward on mandate relief to local governments, including a measure that I proposed that will save taxpayer dollars on IT services for municipalities. In addition the bill ensures that the discussion about mandate relief is ongoing by creating the Mandate Relief Council. I am proud to have partnered with Governor Cuomo on this legislation and to be with him today as he delivers on his promises and signs it into law.”

New York State Assemblyman Robert Castelli said: “The enactment of a property-tax cap is good news for homeowners, businesses, and job creators. This represents a historic moment in the fight to reduce the highest property taxes in the United States. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership in helping to pass this important pro-taxpayer legislation and for his efforts in shepherding this bill through the Legislature. This is truly a momentous occasion for the Empire State’s homeowners and represents an important victory for overburdened taxpayers.”

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino said: “Governor Cuomo has come to Pleasantville to sign a measure that impacts everyone in Westchester County: his property tax cap is a good first step. I applaud Governor Cuomo for recognizing tax relief as a priority. I look forward to working with his administration to further address the needs of Westchester County residents and business owners.”

Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins said: “Too many families and businesses in Westchester have struggled to meet their skyrocketing property tax obligations, and this new tax cap legislation will finally keep these taxes in check. Being able to manage these taxes more effectively will boost our local economy and create jobs as well as give property owners a better chance at making ends meet.”

This cap on property taxes includes safeguards to ensure delivery of critical services for New Yorkers. There will be limited exceptions to the cap, including:

•Judgments or court orders arising out of tort actions that exceed 5 percent of the localities’ levy
•Certain growth in pension costs where the system’s average rate increases by more than 2 percentage points from the previous year; the amount of contributions above the 2 percentage points will be excluded from the limit
•Growth in tax levies due to economic development

The new law institutes a property tax cap to protect homeowners and businesses from skyrocketing property tax hikes for the first time in New York history. For more than 15 years, both houses of the Legislature along with three governors have talked about a property tax cap for New York’s overburdened homeowners with no results. New York’s property taxes are among the highest taxes in the nation:

•The median U.S. property tax paid is $1,917; in New York, it’s $3,755 – 96 percent higher than the national average
•As a percentage of personal income, New York has the highest local taxes in the nation – 79 percent above the national average
•From 1998 to 2008, property tax levies in New York grew by more than 73 percent – more than twice the rate of inflation during that span
•Companies pay five times more in property taxes than they do in corporate taxes
•New York – especially Upstate New York – continues to hemorrhage population and jobs at a greater rate than the national average.