Governor Cuomo set forth an ambitious agenda in his fourth annual "State of the State" address today, including efforts to provide much-needed business and property tax relief and economic development incentives. We believe the Governor is headed in the right direction and hope that Westchester County can soon enjoy the fruits of his plan.
When it comes to property taxes, the governor's plan to provide rebates to homeowners to offset property tax increases over the next two years comes with conditions, including a requirement that municipalities demonstrate that they are seeking to share services with other jurisdictions to keep costs down. Reducing costs is a good thing. However, the real driver of property tax increases are unfunded state mandates—pensions and health care coverage for NYS employees, for example—which can be as much as 85 cents of every property dollar collected in Westchester County. Without mandate relief, the governor's property tax proposal can only go so far.
We are encouraged that the Governor has asked John Mack, the former CEO of Westchester-based Morgan Stanley, to lead "Global NY," an effort to boost New York State exports to foreign markets, and to encourage foreign companies to open offices in New York State. In his address, the Governor expressed his hope that foreign offices will take root in economically distressed upstate New York. However, Westchester County's proximity to New York City, along with its cost-effective real estate and outstanding lifestyle, make it an ideal location for global business in the U.S. The WCA has actively encouraged foreign investment here and last year hosted an International Showcase for 50 foreign trade commissioners to encourage international business growth in the County. Therefore, we call upon the Empire State Development Corp., which will oversee this initiative, to support the growth of foreign trade in Westchester as well as upstate.
Corporate Tax Relief
We were happy to hear the Governor propose to lower the corporate tax rate from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent and speed the elimination of a surcharge on utility bills. Combined, these measures will stimulate investment and job creation. We also believe that increasing state estate tax exemptions over the next four years to $5.25 million from $1 million today will make our state that much more competitive in attracting corporate headquarters.
We like much of what Governor Cuomo has put on his agenda, and we will actively support the initiatives that hold the most promise for Westchester and our region.