Propose Aiding Senior Owners Pay Property Taxes
Seniors who own their own homes could be receiving aid in paying their real estate taxes this year, both under proposals made by Governor George Pataki in the 2006–07 budget which he released last week and also from a bill introduced in the City Council.
The governor’s budget also proposes an additional benefit under the STAR program, which for some five years has helped reduce property taxes for both seniors and younger homeowners.
The governor’s proposed $110.7 billion budget also would give a $500 homeheating credit to low-income seniors homeowners as well as renters.
Low-income seniors on Medicaid who must join the new federal Medicare prescription drug program, which started January 1 would also be affected. The budget would provide funds to help in the transition.
The Assembly and senate will now consider the governor’s proposals in a long, slow, contentious process which must end by April 1, when the governor, Assembly and senate must approve the budget. It appears everyone involved will pass the senior benefits.
At the local level, New York City homeowners who fall within a low-income tax bracket would get some relief from soaring real estate taxes through being permitted to defer payment of their 2006–07 taxes under a bill introduced by City Councilmembers David Weprin (D–Queens) and David Yassky (D–Brooklyn).
The lawmakers say that homeowners have been saddled with 77 percent tax increases on average homes since 2000. Their bill would provide a deferred payment option to seniors with annual incomes of $26,000 or less.
The tax would then be paid by the homeowners or their heirs whenever a house was sold. The city would then receive the back taxes plus interest under the Weprin–Yassky bill.
Weprin, chairman of the Finance Committee, and Yassky explained that even if the seniors are already receiving city or state aid to lower their taxes, there are 300 low-income seniors in the city who are at risk of losing their homes because tax liens have been placed on their properties.
The new $530 million STAR PLUS program unveiled by Pataki for senior homeowners would reward homeowners in school districts that restrain spending. In the city’s case, the Department of Education would have to come in with a lower budget to qualify homeowners for a $400 rebate.
Another part of Pataki’s strategy to assist senior homeowners is to add to the STAR program benefit, which lowers real estate taxes. The new benefit would be a STAR COLA, meaning that if the cost of living increases in a given year, the STAR benefit would be increased by the same percentage the following tax year.
Pataki has also called for reductions in the state income tax, which could help some seniors. However, this could cause a major battle with the Assembly before it’s settled, if at all.
The governor advanced a proposal intended to save $1.3 billion from the Medicaid program. Most of the savings would be achieved by creating a Medicaid Inspector General (IG) who would combat fraud, waste and abuse by doctors, pharmacists and clinics that operate within the Medicaid system.
The Medicaid IG would also watch out for abuses by individual Medicaid members through increasing co-pays in certain cases. Drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction would no longer be covered.
A controversial proposal by the governor, which has run into opposition in the state legislature in the past and has been defeated, has been proposed again. Pataki has advanced legislation to close a Medicaid eligibility loophole which allows individuals applying for nursing home admission to transfer homes or other assets to a relative or family member so that they can qualify to get into a nursing home at public expense. The governor wants to go after individuals who simply refuse to contribute any assets towards the cost of health care services.