May 7, 1997 Dem Ties Tax Cut To Rent Controls

By JON R. SORENSEN Daily News Albany Bureau Chief

The state Legislature's top Democrat yesterday stepped up his fight to save rent protections for 2 million tenants with a thinly veiled threat to block $1.7 billion in property tax cuts proposed by Republicans.

"It's all one big question," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who is heading the battle to renew the state rent laws threatened with elimination on June 15.

Silver said he asked Gov. Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) to negotiate the rent struggle in combination with talks on tax cuts and other budget questions, but the two Republicans rejected the idea.

Bruno yesterday criticized Silver for "holding property tax relief hostage for continued rent regulations."

"It is apparent that . . . [Silver] considers the issue of property taxes little more than a bargaining chip to continue a failed system of subsidies," said Bruno.

Silver's new stand "increases the likelihood that state [rent] laws will expire on June 15," warned Bruno, who has vowed to block renewal unless state officials agree to phase out the protections within four years.

The exchange intensified the struggle over rent laws, which has stalled action on virtually all other state government business including discussions of the huge property tax cut proposed by Pataki. Silver kicked off the latest skirmish by attacking the governor in a speech to about 100 Bronx tenants.

He accused Pataki of continuing the stalemate on the rent laws by not taking a public position on the issue.

"What kind of government intentionally scares millions of families with the threat of taking away their homes?" asked Silver, calling on the tenants to hold Pataki responsible in next year's election if the rent laws are eliminated.

In response, a Pataki spokesman blamed Silver for the crisis, pointing to the Assembly leader's refusal to budge from a public all-or-nothing stand on renewal of the rent laws.

Silver also challenged Bruno to adopt formal legislation on rent laws, instead of repeatedly threatening to let the protections expire. "Is the Senate there with him on that issue?" asked Silver, referring to GOP members from the city and suburbs who are under pressure from tenants to renew the rent laws.

Also yesterday, Sen. Roy Goodman (R-Manhattan) arranged a 45-minute meeting with Bruno and five East Side tenants the Senate leader's first face-to-face session with tenant leaders.

While Goodman said he was "encouraged" by the meeting, Bruno spokesman John McArdle said the Senate leader's position remained unchanged. "His bottom line is that you have to have a transition out of rent control," McArdle said.

Original Story Date: 050797
Original Story Section: City Central