Proposed state tax freeze irks Adirondackers

ALBANY - In a rare joint effort, political representatives and environmental interest groups alike are speaking out in strong opposition to a proposal that would freeze tax payments on state-owned land in the Adirondacks.

In his proposed budget, Gov. David Paterson included a provision that orders a cap on all property taxes currently paid by the state, making them immune to the equalization-rate adjustments made for private landowners.

The proposal creates specific concerns for forest preserve land in the Adirondacks and other areas, which is owned by the state and, according to the state Constitution, cannot be leased, logged, or developed.

Also included in the Constitution is a clause that requires such land be valued and taxed as if it were private property. It's this constitutional law that many now say is being violated, unfairly shifting the tax burden to local residents.

"While everyone has been told we have to feel 'some pain' from the current budget crisis, the people of the Adirondacks will be expected to do more," said State Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro.

"If New York State does not keep its constitutional obligation to pay full taxes on forest preserve land it will mean a loss of critical funding for municipalities, counties and schools throughout the Adirondack Park," added Sayward.

Such a loss would come in concert with other state cuts already being made to schools and other mandatory local government programs, leaving local taxpayers to make up the difference.

"This tax cap would be a dangerous precedent. You can't have two separate tax rates, one for the state and another for private property owners," said State Senator Betty Little, R-Queensbury. "It would be far more constructive for state government to work cooperatively with local governments and school districts, reduce state mandates and help them reduce property taxes for everyone."

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