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Senate passes property tax break, but Assembly won’t

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CANTON - It’s the one thing she hears on a regular basis, at parades and public events, in letters and in phone calls: Bring back rebate checks for sky-high property taxes.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie said that’s why she’s made their return a priority — but the Assembly has yet to make it a reality. With only a few weeks left in session, it doesn’t look like that will change, leaving a major campaign promise unfulfilled and leaving her open to criticism from her Democratic opponent.

The state Senate this week again passed a bill that would bring back the rebate checks, but the Assembly isn’t likely to do the same, leaving the bill in legislative purgatory. Mrs. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said that she hasn’t gone back on her pledge to bring back the School Tax Relief program, which provided property tax relief for upstate homeowners.

“I kept my promise,” she said. “I supported and co-sponsored every STAR rebate bill that came out.”

Her likely Democratic opponent in November said that supporting so-called one-house bills is cold comfort.

“The promise was made that we’d be getting rebate checks, and until that happens, there’s nothing more to say,” according to Amy M. Tresidder, a Democratic county legislator from Oswego.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said there’s no realistic chance that the bill will pass the Assembly. The bill that was passed by the Senate doesn’t even have a sponsor in the Assembly. Plus, the budget has already passed.

“I don’t know why they’re doing it now,” Mrs. Russell said of Senate Republicans, whose campaign to take back the Senate majority from Democrats in 2010 featured criticism for getting rid of the STAR rebate checks the year before. “If this was truly a priority of theirs, this should have been discussed during the budget process.”

Senate Democrats, including the man Mrs. Ritchie ousted, Darrel J. Aubertine, argued that the program was financially unsustainable, particularly given New York’s fiscal woes.

Mrs. Ritchie said that the bill the Senate unanimously passed didn’t address how it would be paid for, but that wasn’t an issue; “$213 million out of $132 billion state spending plan is really a drop in the bucket,” she said.

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