Mike Kaplowitz

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Mike Kaplowitz
Member of the Westchester County Board of Legislators from the 4th District
Assumed office
Preceded by Andrew J. Donovan
Personal details
Born Michael B. Kaplowitz
(1959-09-03) September 3, 1959 (age 58)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jayne Kaplowitz
Children 2
Residence Somers, New York
Occupation Financial Planner
Website www.mikekaplowitz.com

Michael B. "Mike" Kaplowitz (born September 3, 1959) is an American lawyer, financial planner and Democratic politician from Somers, New York. He is a member of the Westchester County Board of Legislators and represents portions of New Castle, Somers and Yorktown. He served as Chair of the Board from 2014 to 2017.

Political career and background[edit]

He and his wife Jayne have lived in Somers since 1989 and they have two daughters who attend the Somers Public Schools. He is a member of the March of Dimes Walk America, the American Red Cross, the Partnership Fund for Aging Services and several area Chambers of Commerce. He earned his B.A. in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981 and his J.D. from the Boston University School of Law in 1984.[1] He also became a C.F.P. in 1986.[2]

Kaplowitz has labeled his years of business experience his "guiding star" for the decisions that he makes as a County legislator.[3] After a career in business Kaplowitz decided to run for an open seat on the Westchester County board of legislators in 1997 in the district that encompasses the hamlets of Chappaqua and Millwood in the town of New Castle; Amawalk, Baldwin Place, Granite Springs, Lincolndale, and Shenorock in the town of Somers; and Crompond, Jefferson Valley, Kichtawan and Yorktown Heights in the town of Yorktown.[4]

He ultimately won a razor-thin 35 vote victory over RoseMarie Panio, who was the Yorktown GOP chairwoman.[5] His positions on preserving the County's last opportunities for open space and to conservation issues have earned him praise from environmentalist organizations around the region and the endorsement of the New York League of Conservation Voters in all of his campaigns.[6] He is also involved in legislative effort to keep the issue of sewage diversion & upgrade a priority and supports converting Indian Point Energy Center to a non-nuclear facility.[7] He is a self-described "fiscal conservative."

Budget committee accomplishments[edit]

Kaplowitz was appointedt as Chair of the Budget & Appropriations Committee in 2003. He stated that is a supporter of "tax fairness" and has always supported sales tax over property tax, although in May 1998, Kaplowitz was one of four legislators who voted against a sales tax amnesty on clothing costing less than $500.[8] In October 1998, Kaplowitz voted against taking part in a temporary state moratorium on sales tax, suggesting that property taxes would need to be increased substantially if the county did otherwise.[9] Opponents argued that by cutting spending, the board could have made up for the lost sales tax revenue.[9] Due to the settlement of the State of New York's case against tobacco industry, the country board was able to lower property taxes by close to 1% in 1999.[10]

Kaplowitz's campaign states that he worked to forge partnerships among the State, County, local municipalities and school districts for shared sales tax revenue in an attempt to lower the local property tax burden. Kaplowitz took part in winning relief for 354 Northern Westchester homeowners who were paying sewer taxes despite never being hooked up to sewers.[11] In 1999, Kaplowitz's opponent claimed that he backed a $3.5 million plan to install sewers in an enclave outside of his district, while a plan to service the 354 residents of his district that he saved from sewer taxes who were still without service went unresolved.[12]

In 2000, Kaplowitz was able to support County Executive Spano's budget plan which included a 4.9% tax cut, the largest in country history, although it did include increases in sewer tax levies.[13] However, in 2001, the tax cuts were wiped out after Kaplowitz enacted the proposal from the County Executive to increase the county sales tax by .25%, raise property taxes by 4%, and increase spending by 7.3%.[14] County Executive Spano stated that "I didn't have anything to do with what happened to the economy, with what happened on September 11, with what happened to the state. Those are things I don't think anybody could have anticipated. … I think we did an appropriate and prudent thing in this budget."[14] Kaplowitz joined the other Democrats on the board in taking Spano's plan a step further, raising taxes by an additional percentage point, while adding additional spending to keep open the Playland Ice Casino, and aid for mental health programs, libraries and programs for Latinos, women and the homeless that went beyond what Spano put in his budget.[15]

In 2002, the county was faced with a proposed 31.7% increase in the amount the county raises through property taxes, the largest increase since 1968, the second largest in county history, and the second since Kaplowitz took office, which included a typical increase in the county property-tax rate to $4.59 per $1,000 of property value next year, from $3.83.[16] Although legislators including Kaplowitz attempted to lobby the state for permission to increase sales taxes by 1% instead of increasing property taxes, the movement failed, and Kaplowitz voted in favor of the 14.8% property tax increase which passed just prior to the budget deadline.[17][18][19][20]

As head of the budget committee, Kaplowitz highlighted that spending had risen only by 3.4% from 1998 to 2003.[21] He voted in favor of the 30-cent monthly surcharge on cell phone bills, which generated $1.4 million to upgrade local emergency response systems.[19] Kaplowitz was reelected, although his opponent stated that year, Westchester County had the highest property taxes in New York State, and the highest sales tax outside of New York City and Long Island, with a median property tax bill for an owner-occupied home in Westchester of $6,826 - the highest among the state's 57 counties and more than twice the statewide median of $2,847.[22] As well, all of Westchester's 40 school districts raised their property taxes that year, on top of the 14.9 percent increase in the county property tax levy that Kaplowitz approved after the state rejected their request to hike the county portion of the sales tax by 1 point.[22]

In late 2003, warned that another attempt to increase the lobby the State Assembly to increase sales tax would fail, Kaplowitz voted for the $1.4 billion budget which increased property taxes by 8.5% and sales taxes by 1%.[23] The assembly members who represented Westchester in Albany said they opposed the higher sales tax, which was enough to defeat a similar proposal the previous year. Led by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Greenburgh, they suggested alternative tax and fee hikes to help balance the county budget, including raising the mortgage tax and extending the reach of the existing sales tax to cover items that are not now taxed.[24]

The Assembly eventually agreed to raise the sales tax by half a percentage point instead of the one percentage increase requested in the budget approved by the board of legislators, and the record $1.4 billion spending plan adopted by the County legislature in December had included an 8.5 percent increase in the property-tax levy and assumed that additional revenues would come from the sales-tax increase.[25] In early 2004, Kaplowitz voted in favor of the amended budget which raised county property tax collections by an additional 10 percent from the amount approved in December to offset the budget gap from the diminished sales tax increase, and when the measure passed, Westchester County ended with 18.82 percent more in property taxes during 2004 than it did in 2003.[26]

In reaction to the second straight year of double digit property tax increases, Kaplowitz stated that as head of the budget committee "the spending hike reflected increases in state mandates such as higher Medicaid and pension fund costs. To cover other potential expenses, county lawmakers created an $11.8 million contingency fund. The fund could help pay for bus service should Albany fall to come through with extra aid, as well as help ball out the cash-strapped Westchester Medical Center and fund future raises for unionized employees."[27] By setting money aside, lawmakers hoped to reassure credit agencies after Moody's placed the county's tripe-A bond rating on 90-day ‘watch fist’ review, citing the county's liability for part of the medical center's debt.[27] Kaplowitz said county officials enacted the second double-digit property tax hike of 14.8 percent in 2003 because the package of sales tax increases negotiated with state lawmakers would generate $50 million this year, leaving Westchester with a $22 million gap to fill, reflecting the contingency fund and a $10 million write-down of money owed to Westchester by the medical center for which the county will not be repaid.[28] Kaplowitz stated that "Companies have bad years, and governments unfortunately have bad years. Hopeful, this is the end to two bad years in a row".[27]

In 2004, the Budget Committee did not raise taxes for the first time in four years, although the budget did increase county spending by 4%.[29] In 2005, County Executive Spano announced a plan to supplementing the state's actions to address the financially insolvent Westchester Medical Center.[30] The proposal involved a refinancing of so-called "tobacco securitization bonds" that were sold in 1999 following the settlement of national lawsuits against tobacco manufacturers. The refinancing gave the medical center an immediate cash infusion of $27 million and a possible stream of future financial aid.[31] Members of the legislature including Kaplowitz have taken credit for the measure, although it is commonly held that Spano, State Senator Nick Spano, and State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky were chiefly responsible for the bailout, which included an additional $75 million from county taxes, increased fees and state taxpayers from other municipalities.[32][33][34][35]

The budget for 2006 included a raise in the property tax levy by 4.5%, with the total budget up 3.9% from 2005, in part from absorbing $14.4 million in bills for Westchester Medical Center, for overall county government budget of $1.54 billion. The ranks of county employees also would grow for the first time in eight years ago, from 4,560 to 4,655 workers.[36] Republicans in the minority suggested spending cuts to avoid a tax increase, but Kaplowitz called the Republican calculations "unsustainable" and "unrealistic", stating "Today is decision day for the 2006 county budget. After negotiation, deliberation and, perhaps, consternation, the 17 members of the Board of Legislators will convene to decide what stays in the proposed $1.54 billion spending package, what goes, and what the final tally for taxpayers will be. I'm looking to cut and pare and slice and return to some fiscal sanity by paying for and investing in what we can afford and cutting out what we can and creating some real, practical financial discipline."[37] In voting for the tax increase, Kaplowitz called it a plan that "meets the concerns of all Westchester residents".[38] Much of the tax increase in the budget came from the absorption of $14.4 million in maintenance and other costs at Westchester Medical Center which Kaplowitz called "part of a 'long-term plan for viability' for the hospital", while the board's Republicans suggested the county could have collected those bills, pointing to the hospital's surplus for 2006.[38]

The 2007 budget from Kaplowitz's committee increased property taxes by another 3.5%, under the $1.7b budget approved by the County Legislature. The budget included 77 new county jobs, and a 7.5 percent increase in the funding of nonprofit groups that run arts and human services programs for the county under contract.[39] In late 2007, Bill Ryan, chairman of the County legislature, announced plans for a compensation package that would have raised his own pay by 90% and increased substantially the pay of his fellow legislators.[40] To the opposition of Ryan and his fellow Democrats on the board, Kaplowitz, who initially defended the raises, later objected stating, "I don't believe a compelling case was sufficiently made to support a stipend increase. Further, there was not appropriate public notice given nor opportunity for timely public input. Therefore, a pay raise is not justified at this time."[41][unreliable source?] In 2005, the board voted to increase the stipend to the current $40,000, and board members also voted themselves a series of stipends for chairing committees and other leadership positions.[42] The measure enacted in 2007 included another increase in base compensation, and boosted all of the board's other stipends, including raising the vice chair stipends from $12,000 to $15,000.[42] Kaplowitz did not return any of the pay increase or the spending stipends he received.[43]

The $1.77b budget adopted by Kaplowitz for 2008 again raised property taxes, this time by 3.89%, with an increase in spending of $4.2 million, for a variety of social services and health programs. Kaplowitz estimated that about three-quarters of the spending was to restore programs that had been removed by County Executive Spano. They included mental health services for children, eviction protection efforts and immigrant outreach services."[44] Kaplowitz commented after the vote that "County taxpayers are buying an accountable government and essential services at a fair cost."[44] He noted that it was the ninth time in ten years that the legislators lowered the County Executive's proposed tax levy increase, stating that "This budget reflects that we’re meeting our public policy objective of creating budget certainty from year to year."[45] However, the perpetual increases in property taxes created some controversy now that the Pepsi Bottling Group, located in Kaplowitz's home town of Somers, announced that it was challenging its tax assessment in court and considered relocating out of Westchester.[46] Since 2000, real property taxes in Westchester have increased 54%.[47]

Campaigns for New York State Senate[edit]

Kaplowitz has twice launched campaigns to represent the 40th district in the New York State Senate, a Hudson Valley seat which has traditionally leaned towards Republicans. In that effort, he has sought to recast himself as a fiscal conservative.[48]


In 2006, Kaplowitz launched an unsuccessful bid for higher office in the New York State Senate, 40th District, attempting to unseat Republican incumbent Vinnie Leibell. Kaplowitz was motivated to run for the seat by an election year which saw the region trend Democratic. Despite key upsets like the defeat of incumbent Republican Congresswoman Sue Kelly, Kaplowitz was not successful. He garnered 45.6% of the vote.[49]


In April 2010, Kaplowitz launched his campaign for New York State Senate, 40th District. Incumbent Senator Vincent Leibell ran for County Executive in Putnam County, making the 40th District an open seat.

Kaplowitz was opposed by Republican Assemblyman Greg Ball, a two-term state assembly member representing the 99th state Assembly District. Ball easily defeated Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy in Republican primary election, and went on to defeat Kaplowitz in the general election.

Electoral history[edit]

Westchester County Legislator - District 4, 2007[50]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Michael B. Kaplowitz (I) 6834 57.8 Democrat hold
Republican Terrence P. Murphy 4980 42.2
New York State Senate, 40th District, 2006[49]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Michael B. Kaplowitz 43387 45.6
Republican Vincent L. Leibell III (I) 51724 54.4 Republican hold
Westchester County Legislator - District 4, 2005[51]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Michael B. Kaplowitz (I) 10069 66.1 Democrat hold
Republican Rand Neveloff 5154 33.9
Westchester County Legislator - District 4, 2003[52]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Michael B. Kaplowitz (I) 6662 54.4 Democrat hold
Republican Mark C. Fang 5580 45.6
Westchester County Legislator - District 4, 2001[53]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Michael B. Kaplowitz (I) 7460 57.1 Democrat hold
Republican Mark C. Fang 5601 42.9
Westchester County Legislator - District 4, 1999[54]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Michael B. Kaplowitz (I) 6148 52.3 Democrat hold
Republican RoseMarie Panio 4954 42.1
Westchester County Legislator - District 4, 1997[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Michael B. Kaplowitz 5341 50.1 Democrat pickup
Republican RoseMarie Panio 5302 49.9

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Legislator Michael B. Kaplowitz official biography". Westchester County Board of Legislators. 
  2. ^ "Michael B. Kaplowitz". Retrieved on 2/19/2008 from smartvoter.org.
  3. ^ "Senator in slugfest". The Westchester Guardian. October 6–12, 2006. 
  4. ^ "2001 Legislative District 4". Westchester County Board of Legislators. Retrieved on February 21, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Greene, Donna (November 23, 1997). "Democrats Gain Control of the Board of Legislators". New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  7. ^ Fuchs, Marek (October 17, 2004). "Wanted: Magic Wand for Nuclear Remake". New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  8. ^ Brenner, Elsa. "In Brief; Sales Tax Lifted". The New York Times, May 31, 1998.
  9. ^ a b Greene, Donna. "County Won't Take Part In A Sales Tax Waiver". The New York Times. October 4, 1998.
  10. ^ Wilson, David McKay (June 2, 1999). "Kaplowitz Launches Campaign For 2nd Term On County Board". The Journal News. 
  11. ^ Consavage, Liz & Faubel, D. Scott. (May 12, 1999). "Croton Residents Win Battle Over Sewers". The Journal News. 
  12. ^ Fitz-Gibbon, Jorge. "Candidates Quarrel Over Quarry Heights Sewer Plan". The Journal News, October 31, 1999.
  13. ^ Gannon, Michael (November 17, 2000). "Budget Means Sewer Tax Hikes". The Journal News. 
  14. ^ a b Blain, Glenn (November 16, 2001). "Spano Seeks 9.5 Percent Tax Hike". The Journal News. 
  15. ^ Eddings, Keith (December 22, 2001). "Legislature OKs Bigger Tax Hike". The Journal News. 
  16. ^ Hu, Winnie. "Spano Proposes 31.7% Increase In County Tax For Westchester". The New York Times, October 3, 2002.
  17. ^ Elan, Susan (October 22, 2002). "Westchester Moves To Increase Sales Tax". The Journal News. 
  18. ^ Eddings, Keith (December 3, 2002). "Westchester Banks On Tax Hike". The Journal News. 
  19. ^ a b Eddings, Keith (January 4, 2003). "Westchester County". The Journal News. 
  20. ^ Philippidis, Alex (February 17, 2003). "After County Tax Hike, Some Sing Budget Blues". Westchester County Business Journal.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  21. ^ Gorman, Patrick. "District 4". The Patent Trader, October 9, 2003.
  22. ^ a b Eddings, Keith. "Taxes". The Journal News. October 26, 2003.
  23. ^ Eddings, Keith. "County Passes $1.4B Budget". The Journal News, December 9, 2003.
  24. ^ Eddings, Keith. "Tax Hike And Cuts Looming" The Journal News. January 8, 2004.
  25. ^ Blain, Glenn. "Half Point Added To Sales Tax". The Journal News. February 10, 2004.
  26. ^ Blain, Glenn. "Property Tax To Jump 18.8%". The Journal News, February 11, 2004.
  27. ^ a b c Philippidis, Alex. "Business Leaders Fume As County Taxes Zoom". Westchester County Business Journal. February 16, 2004.
  28. ^ Westchester County Board of Legislators, February 10, 2004.
    SPECIAL ORDER: CHAIR OF THE BOARD: Amending the 2004 County Operating Budget: ACT 12-2004: Act amending the 2004 County Operating Budget for the purpose of abolishing certain positions and reducing and amending and transferring appropriations within county departments, in conformance with the contingency plan adopted by the Board of Legislators on January 7, 2004 as Resolution 2-2004.
    Mr. Kaplowitz presented the following report and Act and moved that the report be received, filed and approved and the Act adopted, which motion was carried by the following vote:
    AYE: Legislators: Young, Abinanti, Alvarado, Bronz, Latimer, Pinto, Stewart-Cousins, Wishnie, Chair – 9.
    Nay: Legislators: Oros, Astorino, Kaplowitz, LaMotte, Maisano – 5.
  29. ^ Eddings, Keith (November 16, 2004). "No New Taxes In '05 Westchester Budget". The Journal News. 
  30. ^ Philippidis, Alex. "Med center bailout down to the wire". Westchester County Business Journal. June, 2005.
  31. ^ "Med Center Plan" (PRESS RELEASE). Kaplowitz for Senate Campaign. 2005. 
  32. ^ Philippidis, Alex. "As bailout talks resume, med center says it's improving". Westchester County Business Journal. July, 2005.
  33. ^ Blain, Glenn. "So who really saved the Westchester Medical Center?". The Journal News. February 29, 2008.
  34. ^ Philippidis, Alex. "Med center, lawmakers hold hope for state bailout". Westchester County Business Journal. February 13, 2006.
  35. ^ Philippidis, Alex. "Pataki sees flaws in medical center bailout proposal". Westchester County Business Journal. June 26, 2006.
  36. ^ Anderson, Liz (November 16, 2005). "Spano Seeks 4.5% Tax Hike". The Journal News. 
  37. ^ Anderson, Liz (December 12, 2005). "Westchester Panel to Put Final Touches on 2006 Budget". The Journal News. 
  38. ^ a b Anderson, Liz (December 15, 2005). "County Passes $1.54B Budget". The Journal News. 
  39. ^ "Spano To Sign Westchester Budget That Raises Taxes 3.5 Percent". Associated Press. December 12, 2006. 
  40. ^ "Ryan could become top-paid, big-county legislator". The Journal News. December 23, 2007. 
  41. ^ "Kaplowitz votes against legislative pay raise". PRESS RELEASE. December 17, 2007. 
  42. ^ a b Blain, Glenn and Fitz-Gibbon, Jorge. "Ryan could become top-paid, big-county legislator". The Journal News. December 23, 2007.
  43. ^ Fitz-Gibbon, Jorge. "Ryan to lead Westchester legislature for another year". January 8, 2008.
  44. ^ a b Blain, Glenn (December 4, 2007). "Westchester Lawmakers Add $4.2 Million in Spending To 2008 Budget". The Journal News. 
  45. ^ Westchester County Board of Legislators (December 11, 2007). "Westchester County Board Of Legislators Passes '08 Budget" (Press Release). 
  46. ^ Driscoll, Eugene. "Danbury trying to woo Peps". Danbury News-Times. February 13, 2008.
  47. ^ "Republican County Legislators Speak Out Against Raises and Budget". westchester.com. December 14, 2007.
  48. ^ Nahmias, Laura. "["http://www.nycapitolnews.com/news/126/ARTICLE/1813/2010-09-29.html ‘Tax Hike Mike’ And ‘The Real Greg Ball’ Take Aim For November]". nycapitolnews.com. September 2010.
  49. ^ a b "2006 State Senate Election Results" (PDF). New York State Board of Elections. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-08-22. 
  50. ^ "2007 General Canvass Election Results" (PDF). Westchester County Board of Elections. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-11. 
  51. ^ "2005 General Canvass Election Results" (PDF). Westchester County Board of Elections. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-11. 
  52. ^ "2003 General Canvass Election Results" (PDF). Westchester County Board of Elections. 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-11. 
  53. ^ "2001 General Canvass Election Results" (PDF). Westchester County Board of Elections. 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-11. 
  54. ^ "1999 General Canvass Election Results" (PDF). Westchester County Board of Elections. 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-30. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Andrew J. Donovan
Westchester County Legislator, 4th District
Succeeded by