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New York State Teachers Union Sues Cuomo Over Tax Cap

A New York state teachers’ union sued Governor Andrew Cuomo over a measure that limits property-tax increases for school funding, calling the cap unconstitutional and unfair to low-income students.

Cuomo, a Democrat, pushed the tax limit through the legislature in June 2011, and it took effect on Jan. 1, 2012. It caps real-estate tax increases at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. School districts can exceed the limit with the backing of 60 percent of voters. Towns can raise it with 60 percent support of elected officials.

The governor has said the cap is needed to hold down state property taxes, which are among the highest in the U.S. In its lawsuit filed today in state court in Albany, New York State United Teachers said the measure widens existing school funding disparities.

“The tax cap has a particularly negative impact on the state’s poor and minority school children, denying them the educational opportunities provided by other, wealthier districts, and denying all local school boards and their voters of the right to close existing funding and achievement gaps or to provide enhanced educational opportunities to school children,” according to a copy of the complaint posted on the union’s website.

Court Declaration

The union, which said it represents more than 98 percent of the state’s public school teachers, is seeking a court order declaring the measure unconstitutional for violating children’s right to equal protection.

“I’m not going to go to New Yorkers today and ask for tax increase after tax increase,” Cuomo, 55, said at a press briefing in the Bronx today. “We want to improve education, but we also want to make sure we’re not raising taxes to the point that people are leaving the state.”

The case is New York State United Teachers v. State of New York, 963-13, New York State Supreme Court, Albany County.

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