Stateline Story

Exemption Debate Looms Over Cuomo's Property Tax Cap

New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo is pushing for a 2 percent cap in the annual growth rate of local property taxes, but just how rigid that cap should be is a matter of debate. Local government officials want exemptions to take into account the growth rates of public employee pension and health care benefits, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports . This debate mirrors one in New Jersey , where the property tax cap championed this year by Governor Chris Christie did include exemptions for public employee benefits. The case the locals make is that there's little they can do to control pension and health care costs in the short-term, since changes take years or even decades to have their full fiscal effect. In the campaign, though, Cuomo proposed a more limited set of exemptions for events such as large legal settlements or for local governments that are attempting to merge with their neighbors to save money.

Some of outgoing Ohio Governor Ted Strickland' s appointees won't ever serve in office, but others will be around for a long time to come. Ohio's Republican Senate rejected 78 of Democrat Strickland's lame-duck appointments on Tuesday, the Columbus Dispatch reports . That group included appointees to the Ohio Casino Control Commission, the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the Ohio Board of Education. In the past the Senate typically has confirmed nominations made by outgoing governors, regardless of party, but Senate leaders argued that the Governor-elect, Republican John Kasich , deserved to have his picks in key roles. The Senate did confirm 251 appointments. Meanwhile, the Dispatch also reports that 22 of Strickland political appointees in the Ohio Department of Transportation are being given positions in the civil service, meaning they'll still have jobs once Kasich takes over. That's long been a common practice at the end of gubernatorial administrations in Ohio.

Some G.O.P. members of the Texas House of Representatives are pushing for the Republican majority alone to pick the next House Speaker, the Dallas Morning News reports . Under the Texas Constitution, the full House votes to name a Speaker. When Joe Straus  ousted longtime Speaker Tom Craddick two years ago, he secured votes of both fellow Republicans and Democrats. Now 11 House Republicans-including three who have backed Straus' reelection as speaker-are looking to avoid a repeat of that process. They're asking their GOP colleagues to pick a nominee for speaker in a party caucus before the full House votes. Straus is being challenged for the speakership by fellow Republicans Warren Chisum and Ken Paxton , who argue that he hasn't been aggressive enough in pursuing conservative causes. With the full House vote approaching on January 11, most close observers of Texas politics expect Straus to keep his job.

Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott campaigned as a Tallahassee outsider. Now another outsider will help him govern. Scott has picked Mike Prendergast as his chief of staff, the Miami Herald reports . Prendergast served as an army officer for 31 years, retiring as a colonel in 2009. He ran for Congress as a Republican and lost last month, taking 40 percent of the vote in a Democratic-leaning seat. Some of Scott's other appointments aren't outsiders, though. Hayden Dempsey and Jon Costello, both prominent multi-client lobbyists, will be his legislative directors.

South Dakota Governor-elect Dennis Daugaard is creating a cabinet-level office to handle Native American tribal issues, the Argus Leader reports . Due to budget concerns, the new Secretary of Tribal Affairs won't have a department to oversee, but he or she ostensibly will have the governor's ear. Daugaard plans to travel with the new appointee to each of the state's nine tribal reservations.