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Bleak or bright future for STAR Rebates?

By By EVAN WHITE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - State Senator Jim Seward is among many looking to restore STAR rebate checks - designed to help property owners with their tax bills.

One Democrat, Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein, is supporting legislation separate from the Republican effort to re-instate STAR rebates.

STAR rebates were eliminated from this year's budget as state leaders aimed to close the state's 2008-2009 combined deficit of $20 billion.

Seward and other Republican colleagues in the senate say that taxpayers count on and need these rebates.

The state budget has already been passed. Seward, however, still feels there are ways to squeeze out the $1.5 billion needed for the rebate program.

"I think even though the budget has been passed, I see a window of opportunity here, in a bipartisan way, to provide some property tax relief and restore these checks," Senator Seward said.

Who would pay for it?

"There is some additional savings that we could go after in order to pay for this program. Consolidation of state agencies, going after medicaid fraud more aggressively, how about the federal stimulus money. This is, I believe, a perfect use of the federal stimulus money," said Seward.

The State Budget office and Taxation Department disagree.

The Governor's office released this statement:

"Governor Paterson is focused on lowering property taxes in New York, and has already taken action to address the problem by convening a leaders meeting at the Capitol to discuss the problem and by signing an Executive Order that demands accountability for future mandates.

"Senator Seward is proposing an additional $1.6 billion in spending without identifying any method to pay for it. Spending money we do not have is what led to the fiscal crisis we had to address in this year's budget. The Governor has also stated clearly that we must keep the budget balanced by identifying how we will pay for all proposed spending."

Matt Anderson, spokesperson for the state budget office, says that there is a contingency appropriation of $1 billion dollars written into the state for the 2009-2010 budget.

It can be used for emergencies or stimulus related programs that New York is competing for, not STAR.

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