CANTON - Its 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 thats why shes made their return a priority but the Assembly has yet to make it a reality. With only a few weeks left in session, it doesnt 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 isnt likely to do the same, leaving the bill in legislative purgatory. Mrs. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said that she hasnt 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 wed be getting rebate checks, and until that happens, theres nothing more to say, according to Amy M. Tresidder, a Democratic county legislator from Oswego.
Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said theres no realistic chance that the bill will pass the Assembly. The bill that was passed by the Senate doesnt even have a sponsor in the Assembly. Plus, the budget has already passed.
I dont know why theyre 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 Yorks fiscal woes.
Mrs. Ritchie said that the bill the Senate unanimously passed didnt address how it would be paid for, but that wasnt an issue; $213 million out of $132 billion state spending plan is really a drop in the bucket, she said.