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NY Budget Battle Continues

By Dan Janison & James Madore

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, head of the state commission examining property taxes, today blasted the television ads and mailings by opponents of Gov. David A. Paterson's tax cap, saying they were "flailing" and "inconsistent."

Speaking to reporters in a telephone conference, Suozzi accused the liberal Working Families Party and Alliance for Quality Education of "a personal attack" on Paterson. "It's really shocking to me," Suozzi said, referring to the $1.5 million TV campaign calling Paterson's tax cap a "gimmick" and urging residents to voice their opposition to him.

The TV ads, launched yesterday, and followed today by 200,000 mailers are aimed at swaying Assembly members. The State Senate voted 38-20 last week to adopt Paterson's 4 percent cap on yearly increases in school taxes.

Suozzi acknowledged the campaign would make passage of the tax cap "tougher." He also accused the Working Families Party of failing to represent low- and middle-class families who are hurt by raising taxes.

Earlier today, the Alliance for Quality Education held a conference call with experts decrying Massachusetts's adoption of a tax cap. They said schools there were undermined.

But Suozzi said Massachusetts leads the nation in test scores while New York is first in tax burden.

The county executive said he is working to win over skeptical Assembly members on Long Island and Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). Suozzi said he had been "given no indication" that the Assembly would act on the tax cap when it convenes Tuesday in special session.

Suozzi, a Democrat, said he would support members of both political parties if they endorse the tax cap, though he stopped short of endorsing Republican leaders. "I will stand with anyone who supports the tax cap," he said, calling it his "Suozzi Doctrine."

UPDATE: Dan Cantor of the Working Families Party just shot back at Suozzi saying the TV campaign isn't an attack on Paterson. "It's not surprising that Tom Suozzi is trying to defend David Paterson's tax gimmick. After all - it was Suozzi's idea," Cantor said. "But Suozzi is dead wrong to say the Governor has been personally attacked. David Paterson has been around long enough to know what's personal and what's about policy.

"Here's what's personal: the impact on 3 million kids around the state if the Governor and the legislature enact a property tax cap that devastates public education. It will be personal for the families whose children go to school in overcrowded classrooms. It will be personal for the teachers who are fired. It will be personal for the homeowners whose property values will go down with the quality of their local schools."

Dan Janison and James Madore both write and report for Newsday's Spin Cycle blog