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Latimer, Cohen Clash On Tax Relief At Bedford Forum

BEDFORD, N.Y. — State Senate District 37 candidates Bob Cohen (R-New Rochelle) and George Latimer (D-Rye) both emphasized the need for state mandate relief but veered in different directions on the property tax cap Monday night at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Bedford, Lewisboro, North Salem.

Cohen is a real estate businessman and former member of Scarsdale’s volunteer fire department who lost to District 37 Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck) by a few hundred votes in 2010. Latimer, who is ending his term as District 91 Assembly member, formerly served as chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators. The two are running to replace Oppenheimer, who is retiring.

If elected, both candidates said, their goal would be to work to get state government to lift unfunded mandates on municipalities and school and fire districts, a step that would allow local governments to restrain property taxes.

“I think the state role in creating these mandates has been calcified, and it’s going to take a fight,” Latimer said.

When it came to the property tax cap signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June 2011, Latimer said he was one of the handful who voted against it and has been “beaten up” in the current campaign because of this decision.

“That bill was more popular than a Thanksgiving Day turkey,” he said, but it did not include unfunded state mandate relief at the same time. Latimer said he plans to support a bill that would put a cap on how much local governments and school districts can pay out in pension costs each year.

Cohen argued that the governor started off on the road toward property tax relief with the tax cap. “[Cuomo] said he would come back to the table with mandate relief and he did, through the Tier 6 pension reform,” Cohen said, which he added is projected to save $80 billion over the next 30 years.

“Of course, it’s not going to show immediate results because it affects only new hires, and as years go on it will impact and reduce the cost for [Bedford Supervisor] Lee Roberts, for Bedford and for all our communities,” he said.

Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R-Goldens Bridge) and his opponent in the District 93 race, David Buchwald (D-White Plains), as well as Bedford town justice candidates David Menken and Todd Gabor, were also invited to the event at the Bedford Hills Community House.

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