Governor Andrew Cuomo has been nothing if not consistent on the question of raising taxes for high-end earners: From his campaign through his latest duels with public employee unions, he condemned the idea.
It would, he argued, make New York state uncompetitive and might even drive millionaires out. This is a quote from October 17th:
“You are kidding yourself if you think you can be one of the highest-taxed states in the nation, have a reputation for being antibusiness—and have a rosy economic future.”
Then, last weekend, there was an abrupt about-face in the form of editorials, penned by Gov. Cuomo, which appeared in newspapers around the state.
Suddenly, the Democrat was describing the current tax code as unfair and suggesting that millionaires, in fact, do need to pay more, while middle class earners have their taxes cut.
It seemed like the opening salvo — a trial balloon maybe? — in a major new policy shift.
But in fact, that editorial was a quick “hold onto your hats” gesture, signaling that we were about to see a major shift in our tax code — as in, right now.
With no public hearings and no public debate, the governor had struck a behind-the-scenes deal with legislative leaders in Albany that will shift significantly more of the tax burden to the wealthy.
Regardless of what you think about the deal itself, it’s hard to view this as a shining example of open democracy and debate.
Yesterday, New York’s League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the Public Interest Research Group put out a joint statement questioning the process.
The announcement today of leadership’s agreement on a proposal to revise the state’s tax code responds to the call by many to make tax policy fair.
However, the process by which the deal was struck is a continuation of the backdoor-deal making that has defined Albany culture.
It is important that the people’s business – particularly policies that will directly impact the taxpayers and the economic health of this state – be conducted in the open.
The public should have an opportunity to learn of, and comment on, such important fiscal and policy matters, not simply be informed after the fact.
Matters of this magnitude should not be decided in secret, during the legislative hiatus and without a formal process.
Each of these important issues should be the subject of hearings and public discussions, with sufficient time for the public to understand and comment on what may be proposed or under consideration.
These concerns are underscored as these issues have not been the subject of recent hearings and the substance of today’s announcement has not been previously vetted through the formal legislative process.
Accordingly, the tax code should not be hustled through a special session, where these crucial matters are debated in closed conferences and then voted on the next day.
The point, really, is that if state officials can strike a good deal quickly and in secret (and again, it’s open to debate whether this is a good deal), what’s to stop them from doing really awful things quickly and in secret?
What do you think? Did this deal take you by surprise? Is it okay a policy shift of this magnitude occur behind closed doors?