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De Blasio Faces Tough Questions In Albany On Subways, Property Taxes

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Albany Monday, facing tough questions from lawmakers about the city's contribution to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the mayor went to the state capital to ask for more money. But he instead ran into Republicans demanding that he freeze New York City property taxes.

The mayor started his testimony shortly after 10 a.m. Monday before a legislative budget panel and was questioned by legislators for several hours.

Lawmakers, city officials and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are now debating the best way to fund vital repairs and upgrades to the city's aging subway system.

The visit comes after the mayor unveiled a proposed $88.6 billion budget on Thursday. The budget doesn't include any new money for the city's chronically ill transit system. De Blasio says the transit system is the state's problem.

One of those calling for changes to the property tax system – and calling for a property tax reform commission – was state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Brooklyn/Staten Island), who ran unsuccessfully for mayor against de Blasio in November.

De Blasio had been on a charm offensive, shaking hands and making nice with state senators and Assembly members who have often thwarted him. That included an awkward exchange of back pats with Malliotakis.

But soon after that, Malliotakis came armed with the mayor's personal tax bill, and her own. The bill showed a dramatic disparity in tax rates around the city.

"My $550,000 house, I pay roughly $5,400 in property taxes," Malliotakis said. "You have a $1.6 million dollar home. You pay roughly $3,500."

Malliotakis pointed out that the mayor has not fulfilled a promise to fix the tax code, and that while the mayor has not raised the tax rate, he has raised the assessed value.

The effect, Malliotakis said, is that during de Blasio's four years in office, New Yorkers have seen a 37 percent hike in the tax levy equal to $7 billion.

"It's unsustainable and it's driving middle-class families out of our city," Malliotakis said.

She demanded that the mayor freeze the tax rates or assessments.

"The city, as well as the state, needs to live within its means," Malliotakis said.

The mayor said he would have to cut services, which people do not want.

"Consistently, I have heard from my constituents they did not want use to cut back on services we provide to the city," de Blasio said.

While de Blasio gamely reiterated his proposal for a millionaires' tax to fund the MTA, Long Island Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) told him to his face that such a proposal is dead on arrival, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

The mayor acknowledged the governor's congestion pricing plan but said he needs more details about it. He then raised objections to yet another of the governor's budget ideas.

"A quote-unquote value capture proposal that would grant the MTA the power to raid our property taxes on properties within a one mile radius of certain projects. This proposal would costs billions and blow a hole in the city's budget," de Blasio said.

The mayor asserted if value-added were implemented it would force the city cut back on police, sanitation, and education and urged the legislators to ditch the concept.

De Blasio was also grilled on his failure to provide more money to fix the subways, and why he as not fired the embattled head of the New York City Housing Authority.

He played defense on most issues, but attacked Cuomo for sending state police to New York City.

Asked if the NYPD could handle the city's needs, de Blasio said, "unquestionably."

The mayor also had a late-afternoon meeting for the governor, for which he was nine minutes late.

The mayor said the meeting with the governor was productive, but also said a number of things still needed to be worked out on funding for the subway and congestion pricing.

There was no comment from the governor's office about the meeting.

De Blasio's annual appearance in Albany has become something of a tradition, giving the mayor's critics in the Legislature an opportunity to question de Blasio on their own turf.

De Blasio began his second term as mayor last month.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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