Will Cuomo’s tough line on tax hikes bear scrutiny?

Andrew Cuomo once again polished his credentials this week as a guy who really doesn’t want to raise state income taxes.

At a time when even many Republicans are backing away from Grover Norquist’s famous “no new taxes” pledge, New York’s Democratic governor firmly rejected the idea of raising income tax rates to help pay for Hurricane Sandy response.

Instead, Cuomo wants the Federal government to pick up the tab, to the tune of roughly $41 billion.

“I understand the fiscal pressures that Washington is under,” said Cuomo. “I also understand the fiscal pressure that New York is under.”

According to the governor, asking New Yorkers to pay for their own rebuilding effort, through new taxes or more spending cuts, would “incapacitate the state.”

This follows, of course, Cuomo’s past hostility to raising income taxes, and builds on his successful effort to pass a property tax cap for local governments.

But here’s the wrinkle.  While the governor has followed a hard line on state tax revenues, he’s also been cheerful about asking other government entities — and other taxpayers — to pick up the tab for things that he wants done.

Yes, he pushed through the property tax cap.

But counties and school districts still struggle under hundreds of unfunded state mandates that Albany dictates to local governments,

Those mandates make us do all kinds of incredibly expensive things — from medical care to education programs for kids with disabilities.

Because the state has been shrinking its share of support for those programs, many local taxing entities have been forced to blow by the 2% tax cap.

Cuomo gets to claim the mantle of tax-fighter, but citizens still wind up paying far more taxes, with more and more of the bill going to low income property owners who can least afford it.

Now we’re seeing the same thing again with Sandy.  The governor says no to hiking taxes to pick up at least part of the tab for the

IMAGE: NYS

recovery effort.  But the buck has to stop (or in this case, come from) somewhere.

New York state is one of the wealthiest states in America, per capita, and New York City is one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

Surely it makes sense for us to at least talk about paying for some part of our own rebuilding effort?

Of course, if Cuomo does one day seek higher office — the presidency, say — it will look better on his resume if he never raised taxes while serving as governor.  At least that’s the old political calculus.

But I suspect that Cuomo’s tough line on taxes will only carry him so far.  In the post-Bush era, voters are increasingly leery of politicians who try to do big things without showing the math for how they plan to pay for it.

Cuomo will have to demonstrate that he’s able to solve serious problems without merely passing the costly burdens of government to other entities, jurisdictions and taxpayers.

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39 Comments on “Will Cuomo’s tough line on tax hikes bear scrutiny?”

  1. Walker says:

    Andrew Cuomo is a Democrat in name only. His father always struck me as a man of principle. Andy, not so much. I would like to think that voters will begin to see through him. We’ll see.

  2. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Cuomo is just passing the buck, he’s a master at it. It’s that simple. He wants a record as something other than a tax and spend lib for when he makes his Presidential bid. The fact he just passes all the costs on to someone else won’t matter unless the press makes an issue of it.

    As far as this line, ” In the post-Bush era, voters are increasingly leery of politicians who try to do big things without showing the math for how they plan to pay for it.”, that doesn’t add up since they just re-elected a guy who has no intention of worrying about how anything gets paid for!

  3. Verplanck says:

    Arlo, come back from bizzaro land! Romney didn’t get elected!

  4. The Original Larry says:

    You’re wrong Arlo, taxing the rich is going to solve all our fiscal problems. Don’t you get it?

  5. The Original Larry says:

    “many local taxing entities have been forced to blow by the 2% tax cap.”

    Nobody is forcing them to do anything. Paying more isn’t the right answer; spending less is.

  6. Arlo got it right.

    When criticized for breaking his promise by imposing the local tax cap without the much needed mandate relief, Emperor Andrew told localities to quit whining and suck it up. Why should the feds not tell him the same thing?

  7. It's Still All Bush's Fault says:

    In St. Lawrence County, the legislators will be able to boast about a more than 5% reduction in property taxes.

  8. The Original Larry says:

    “In St. Lawrence County, the legislators will be able to boast about a more than 5% reduction in property taxes.”

    They should call up Essex county and let them in on the secret.

  9. It's Still All Bush's Fault says:

    It’s all in how you phrase it. The projected increase was 20%, but the legislators worked “so hard” to reduce it to 14.4%. Therefore, the BOL reduced taxes by over 5%.

  10. scratchy says:

    Brian Mann,

    Don’t you remember the 2011 tax bill, which raised taxes on those making over 2 million?

  11. Mervel says:

    Coumo will be fine he is playing it perfectly. I am not sure about the wealth statistics?

  12. BRFVolpe says:

    Maybe it’s time for the red states to return some of the largess they’ve received from the blue states for decades. Hold your heads up while you have your hands outreached, Andy and Chris!

  13. Pete Klein says:

    When you shop till you drop to buy junk to impress others and yourself, and then complain about taxes, consider yourself stupid.
    Let’s not fund anything the government provides until we get to the point where you can’t get to the big box stores to buy the junk because the roads have fallen apart and aren’t being plowed, until you can’t drink the water because the sewer system has more leaks than the Titanic, and the cops aren’t out on patrol because they don’t have any money for gas.
    And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the schools because education costs too much and besides all we need are uneducated bodies to fight and get killed in stupid wars.

  14. The Original Larry says:

    Pete,
    Let’s keep funding schools that have to recruit foreign students in order to”justify” their existence. That’s so much more cost-effective than consolidating with other low enrollment districts. And maybe we can get that bookmobile command post project going again. How much are we spending on those idiotic train schemes and other ideas that are not commercially viable? Consider yourself stupid? Really.

  15. Marlo Stanfield says:

    New York might be one of the wealthiest states in the country, but it also has some of the highest taxes already. Cuomo’s reluctance to raise them even more makes sense.

    As for the property tax cap, yeah, you can find flaws with it, and yeah, municipalities have to deal with state mandates and rising costs they can’t control … but do you want to see your property tax bill go up by 5, 10, 15 percent every year to cover those? At least the tax cap forces them to take a special vote to override. For every city, county or town whining about it, there are others living within it. If you want to get taxes under control, you’ve got to start somewhere. Cuomo’s approach wasn’t perfect, nothing is, but it’s far better than doing nothing would have been.

  16. Paul says:

    Pete, the problem is the main source of the funds for some of those things is taxes on the “junk” you describe. Income taxes are just part of it. Economic activity will makes sure the roads stay open. Junk is fun!

  17. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    The problem is that NY isn’t spending all it’s dough on roads and bridges and schools and sewers. It’s spending it on a lot of worthless junk. It doesn’t make any more sense when gov’t does it than when Joe Middleclass does it.

  18. Walker says:

    “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Old saying, still true.

  19. Pete Klein says:

    The true horror of the tax cap will soon kick in when fund balances are depleted. Then what?
    Lay off more teachers, town and county employees?
    That should really help the unemployment situation unless those laid off leave for where? Maybe Canada or Mexico?
    Let’s talk money. Hamilton County is working to cut a budget that last stood at 12.4% above the 2012 budget. Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But what would a 12.4% increase mean in terms of higher property taxes? It would mean an increase of about $30 on a house assessed at $100,000. In other words, eat one less candy bar a week to cover the increase in the tax.
    Are roads, sheriff patrol and other services worth a candy bar or two?

  20. The Original Larry says:

    Pete,
    Your kind of logic has helped us get to the point we are at now, of constantly rising and wasteful taxation. It’s more than just the price of a candy bar when you add it up year after year after year. Maybe people will pay attention when the cuts include teachers and municipal employees.

  21. Walker says:

    “…the point we are at now, of constantly rising and wasteful taxation…”

    One more time… Federal taxes are at a thirty year low. State and local taxes are up, but that’s at least in part due to all the tax cutting at the federal level, killing revenue-sharing.

    Taxes are just not the catastrophe you make them out to be.

  22. The Original Larry says:

    Walker,
    You know very well that the conversation centered on a comment about the 2% cap on New York State Property Taxes. You don’t prove your point when you change the focus of the discussion.

  23. Walker says:

    Larry, I tied it back to state and local, with revenue sharing. You think federal cuts are totally unrelated to state and local increases?

    Besides taxes are taxes: it’s the total tax burden that matters.

  24. The Original Larry says:

    Besides taxes are taxes: it’s the total tax burden that matters.

    Agreed! Taxes are too high.

  25. Walker says:

    Larry, suppose we agreed to try to assiduously eliminate waste and abuse, where ever it could be found: in corporate subsidies and in welfare cheats, in the military and in agriculture, in education and in health care. Any doubt that we could trim costs to the point where taxes could be lowered without gutting the safety net? Maybe we’d even have enough left over to repair infrastructure?

    Why can’t we all just get along, and do what’s right?

    I imagine we could do so, if we could get the money out of politics. Citizen’s United has got to be overturned, and the revolving door between Congress and lobbyists has got to be stopped before we have a prayer of ending the waste of taxpayer’s money.

  26. mervel says:

    NYS is 16th in Median income and 38th in poverty (1 being the best).

    It is kind of hard to make the case that we have this overflow of wealth when we have so much poverty and our median income is Ok, but not great. We are certainly not one of the wealthiest states in the US based on the average New York resident.

  27. mervel says:

    So where IS all of that tax money going, because it is not going to help the poor in any sort of effective way.

  28. mervel says:

    There is a reason working people are leaving NYS, this is a nice place for the very wealthy but not so great for the middle class, particularly for blue collar working people. Public schools are a great example, the wealthy and the political class in NYS don’t understand the importance of public education because none of them went to a public school, most of rest of the nation did, this is the dividing point between the Eastern elitist and the regular person. Thus New York has no unified great public Universities. Where is our U of Michigan,U of Minnesota, U of Texas, our UCLA etc.? No our great schools are all private, NYU, Columbia, Cornell and of course all of the private Liberal arts schools. SUNY’s are fine, but they don’t come close to competing with other state university systems in national rankings. This is a result of the elitist attitude of people like Coumo, of course he does not really care that our north county schools are dying, I mean who goes to public schools? So we have the high taxes, we have the ultra rich down in the City doing fine going to all of the private schools, and the rest suffer with these insane mandates and state control.

    I am not always against government and the need for government but NYS is kind of an example that big government is not about helping the middle and lower class and the poor.

    Well enough rant but

  29. The Original Larry says:

    “Why can’t we all just get along, and do what’s right?”

    Come on, Walker, you’re not fooling anyone. What you want is for everyone to do what YOU THINK is right. Your continued rants against conservatives prove it. Compromise does not mean everyone adopting the liberal philosophy.

  30. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Mervel, I don’t know if I can tie Cuomos actions to his elitist attitude, but I’ve never forgotten his fathers statement, “Upstate? You mean where they wear suits off the rack from Sears?” That pretty much told me all I needed to know.

    Walker, okay, lets say we agreed to do that, to cut the waste, fraud and abuse which is something rightsiders have been screaming for forever. I think it’s a great idea. First place to cut is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Their mandate has been run it’s course and Sesame Street toy sales alone could make up for more than the gov’ts input into keeping it running. End all the agriculture subsidies and price supports, limits and manipulation. True, your food costs will probably skyrocket but that’s life. Draw the military down to basic levels and close all foreign bases, end new equipment development. Go through line by line in the budget and delete all redundant programs and duplicate agencies. Crack down on welfare fraud, disability fraud, medical fraud. Start selling off gov’t owned lands or lease them for energy development. Cut the Federal gov’t workforce by 10% a year for the next 4 years. Put an end to unfunded mandates once and for all at both state and Federal levels.

    I’m all for it, where would you start?

  31. Walker says:

    ” Taxes are too high.”

    Well, maybe not:

    “According to an analysis by The New York Times, the combination of all income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes took a smaller share of their income than it took from households with the same inflation-adjusted income in 1980.” (NY Times: Complaints Aside, Most Face Lower Tax Burden Than in 1980)

  32. The Original Larry says:

    So what? We are living and paying taxes in the here and now and taxes are too high because spending is too high and a lot of it is wasteful as well. Comparing things to the past (as conservatives have been frequently reminded) does not change the basic math in 2012.

  33. Walker says:

    Ah, spoken with that fine conservative distain for actual facts.

  34. The Original Larry says:

    I don’t have disdain for the facts (although many who commented in the Times do) but I do question their relevance. Does it follow from the idiotic premise of that article that minorities shouldn’t complain about racism now because it is actually much less prevalent than it was in the past? The NY Times is not exempt from stupidity.

  35. Walker says:

    “Your kind of logic has helped us get to the point we are at now, of constantly rising and wasteful taxation.”

    Well, Larry, your facts were off when you wrote that, and that’s why the premise of the article is not idiotic– to listen to conservatives, taxes as a whole have just gone up and up and up. Well, no.

  36. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Holy smokes Walker, 1-3% less but out state and local taxes are much higher and you call that win? And state and local taxes are higher, there are all sorts on new taxes that didn’t exist in 1980 too. Sorry guy, but that article may be technically correct if you stick within their guidelines, but it’s not reality. Taxes take up a larger and larger part of our incomes. Not just income taxes but all the other hidden taxes too, the ones that get passed on to us as consumers. I mean, nice try but it’s just not real.

    So, what about those cuts you’d be willing to start with?

  37. Walker says:

    “Taxes take up a larger and larger part of our incomes.”

    ???!!!

    No they don’t:

    “The analysis shows that the overall burden of taxation declined as a share of income in the 1980s, rose to a new peak in the 1990s and fell again in the 2000s. Tax rates at most income levels were lower in 2010 than at any point during the 1980s.”

    What’s not real, Arlo, is the claim that taxes are unbearably high. You have heard of the tax rates of the 1950s and ’60s, yes? And you want to claim that it’s high taxes that are killing us? Absurd on its face!

  38. Marlo Stanfield says:

    I think why the Times article doesn’t ring true is because most of the people who comment here live in New York. There are plenty of towns, cities, villages, counties, fire districts, water districts, sewer districts, and, especially, school districts in New York that were regularly raising property taxes by several percent every year after year after year until the tax cap … that adds up to a lot over a decade or two. Even if you don’t own a house, that drives up your rent. And nobody’s income is going up fast enough to make up for that. The article doesn’t mention New York that I saw, but I don’t know how we couldn’t be one of those half-dozen states where the rising state and local burden outweighed any federal cuts. And what about the rising costs of hunting/fishing licenses, higher DMV fees, rising taxes on cigarettes, etc.? That stuff adds up.

    Federal income taxes, which have gone down for many people, are only the biggest burden for people who have higher incomes … for most people, property, sales, and payroll taxes take the biggest bite percentage-wise, and the first two at least have been going up. (Not sure about payroll taxes.) Sure, maybe people who make over $200,000 a year pay less overall than they did in 1975, but how many of us fall in that category?

  39. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    I think Marlo hit it Walker. That story doesn’t reflect our reality. I know in my case my mortgage, which includes an escrow tax account, has risen over $400 a month in 16 years. That is entirely due to property taxes rising, re-assessments and school taxes rising. Yet my income has fallen by at least $300.00 a month due to increased medical insurance costs alone. I know you want to believe that article, but it makes no sense. It’s just juggling numbers to get the answer they want. And when the current tax rates go up at the Federal level, which they will one way or another, it’s going to be even more obvious that taxes eat up a larger and larger part of our income. I don’t think those guys doing that research for your article stopped to consider that every single tax the maker of product “A” pays gets passed onto the consumer. As my tax burden rises I have to pass that cost on to my customers. My suppliers pas their costs on to me. Their suppliers pass the cost on to them, etc. So while on paper the tax burden for an individual might be “1″, the actual tax cost might be “17″.

    I don;t believe it’s as simple as looking at just Federal and local rates.

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