Basile proposes tax relief for places with closed power plants (updated X 2)

Republican Senate candidate Tom Basile proposed on Thursday that the state fund $200 million a year to provide tax relief to school districts and municipalities that have lost revenue or been forced to pay settlements because a power plant closed or won a court case to cut its tax bills.

Basile invoked the closure of the coal-fired Lovett power plant units in Stony Point in 2007 and 2008, and a tax challenge by the plant’s owners, Mirant, that he said had forced the North Rockland School District to repay Mirant $12 million a year in past taxes. The state forced Mirant to close the plant because of its air pollution.

“New York’s failed energy policies have decimated our tax bases in so many areas,” Basile said in a press release. “Albany’s tax and regulate agenda has seriously cost Haverstraw and Stony Point residents and has left us with land that generates pennies-on-the-dollar compared to its previous tax levy.”

Basile, a Stony Point councilman who’s running for the 39th Senate District seat that Bill Larkin is vacating, said that school districts and municipalities that get state grants through his proposed fund would have to lower their tax levies by an equal amount. He didn’t say for how many years they could get state payments or how much each district or government would be allowed to seek.

(Update: Basile’s campaign says districts and municipalities could apply for state funding equal to the amount of their debt payments to the power plant owner, plus the amount of revenue they lost when a plant’s assessment was lowered. They could collect state payments every year until they finished repaying the owner, “but would also be able to take advantage of a need-based program that will address a portion of loss of revenue.”)

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan supported the idea in Basile’s press release. “This is a serious issue on Long Island with the LIPA tax certiorari decision and it is a problem that is impacting more and more areas throughout the state,” he said. “The North Rockland School District taxpayers have borne the brunt of this problem and the state needs to step in and address this issue now to help alleviate this massive burden.”

(Update #2: The head of the North Rockland Teachers Association issued a scathing response to Basile and Flanagan, saying that Assemblyman James Skoufis, the Woodbury Democrat competing with Basile for the 39th Senate District seat, pushed for aid for North Rockland this year and was blocked by Senate Republicans.

“We see this for what it is, a con job trying to get votes in November,” association President Debbie Brennan said in a press release. “Assemblyman James Skoufis, on the other hand, has been a champion on this issue and willing partner in trying to help our schools and taxpayers. He has been working on legislation that would resolve this issue sustainably, only to see it blocked by Sen. Flanagan. Republican Tom Basile would be more of the same.”)

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