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Politics and Government

Cuomo setting the stage for tax cuts

Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems to be setting the stage for a tax cut next year. Recently, he’s appointed a new commission to look at cutting property and other taxes, and has said the state may have a budget surplus to pay for them.

The governor announced a new tax policy commission headed by former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, and former state Comptroller Carl McCall, a Democrat. Both are past political rivals of Cuomo.

Cuomo charged the new panel with finding a way to cut taxes.

“This is going to be a centerpiece for the agenda next year,” Cuomo said during the announcement.  Cuomo, a few days later, said he thought the state budget will run a surplus to pay for any new tax cuts.

“The economy is starting to pick up,” Cuomo said. “We’re in a position now to do additional tax cuts.”

The new tax panel is Cuomo’s second commission on taxes. He appointed one in 2012 to examine reform of the state’s complicated tax code, with instructions to be revenue neutral in its recommendations.

Former state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who is now a fellow at the Demos think tank and New York University’s Wagner School, calls it “the case of the dueling commissions,” and he says it’s all about the governor’s 2014 reelection campaign, where Cuomo is seeking a fiscally conservative platform. Brodsky says he has coined a term for Cuomo’s brand of politics, “progractionary.” He says the governor is liberal on social issues, like supporting gay marriage and gun control, but conservative on financial matters, like reducing government spending and promoting business.

“Those kind of politics put together are highly unusual,” said Brodsky, who also said he believes the combination could serve Cuomo well, should he want to run for president in 2016.

The talk of possible tax cuts comes at a time when the nonpartisan Tax Foundation named New York number one again for the highest taxes in the nation. The state is tied with neighboring New Jersey for having the largest tax burden on citizens of all of the 50 states.

Cuomo did not comment publicly on the report, but his lieutenant governor, Robert Duffy did.

“We’ve always been at 48th or 49th or 50th," Duffy lamented. “And we don’t want to be there.”

Duffy spoke recently at a business lunch in Rochester. He says Cuomo is doing all he can to cut taxes, but he says others in state government might not be pushing as hard.

“The governor gets it,” said Duffy. “But the governor is not the only decision maker in the state. He needs the Assembly and Senate on point, too.”

Cuomo pushed through a 2 percent cap per year on the growth of property taxes. He also offered some income tax relief to middle-class New Yorkers at the end of 2011, but raised taxes on the rich. In addition, all families with dependent children will be getting at $350 tax rebate check, shortly before Election Day 2014, as part of deal the governor made with the legislature.

The Tax Foundation does say in its report that Cuomo’s new tax commission, with an emphasis on reducing taxes, offers some new hope.