Tax

New York reaches pact on rent regulations, property tax

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 22, 2011 2:45 PM
New York reaches pact on rent regulations, property tax

By Dan Wiessner

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - New York state legislative leaders on Tuesday reached tentative agreements on rent control and a property tax cap, while the fate of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage remained up in the air.

Emerging from a closed-door meeting with New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said a "framework" agreement had been reached on the rent laws and tax cap. They declined to give details or set a date for a Senate vote on same-sex marriage, which passed the Assembly last week.

Skelos, a Republican, said he expected the legislature to break for a summer recess Wednesday.

New York City has about one million rent-regulated apartments and much of the debate centers on the conditions under which they could be returned to the free-market. Currently, apartments that become vacant and which rent for more than $2,000 a month are booted out of the regulated program. Another provision sets a maximum yearly income of $175,000 for people who qualify for rent-regulated apartments.

While Assembly Democrats have proposed boosting both limits, some GOP senators say that would turn a program for the lower- and middle-classes into one that aids the wealthy.

Rent regulations are a top priority for the Assembly Democrats, which draw many of their members from the New York City area. In contrast, Senate Republicans prioritize a bill that would cap property tax increases at 2 percent a year. Soaring property taxes are a major concern for their mostly suburban and upstate constituents.

The same-sex marriage bill, which would make New York the sixth and largest state to allow gay nuptials, needs only one more Senate vote to pass. Undecided senators have cited concerns over exemptions for religious groups and individuals as the sticking point in negotiations.

But a vote on the measure in the Senate, which was originally expected last week, was delayed as legislative leaders and Cuomo had reached an impasse in negotiations over rent control and a cap on property tax increases.

The legislative session was scheduled to end Monday, but lawmakers have stayed at the Capitol along with hundreds of protesters on both sides of the marriage debate.

"We have not finalized the language in terms of religious protections," Skelos told reporters.

Silver, a Democrat, also said amendments to strengthen religious protections were still under discussion.

Gay-rights advocates remained optimistic, noting that the marriage bill becoming a key bargaining chip is a sign that it has a good chance of passing.

"People are very hopeful; there are a lot of positive signs," said Dan Weiller, a spokesman for Empire State Pride Agenda, the state's largest gay-rights group.

(Editing by Joan Gralla and Andrew Hay)