Every time Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets the presidential bug, New York taxpayers get the short end of the stick.
In late 2011, for instance, when he thought President Obama might not be re-elected in 2012 due to Washington gridlock, Cuomo strove to prove that he could accomplish what Obama could not: raise personal income tax rates.
Candidate Cuomo in 2010 had pledged that as governor he would “veto any increase in personal or corporate income taxes or sales taxes.”
Cuomo had opposed extending the so-called “Millionaire’s Tax” that was set to expire on December 31, 2011.
He told the Wall Street Journal, “I was against it at the time, and I still am. It’s a new tax. It was supposed to sunset. If it doesn’t sunset, it’s a tax [increase].”
Cuomo went so far as to compare his refusal to extend the tax to his father’s principled opposition to the death penalty during his gubernatorial years.
However, Cuomo abandoned his solemn pledge and signed into law an extension of the “Millionaire’s Tax,” which actually kicks in at about $200 thousand for singles and $300 thousand for married couples, to improve his image with the National Democratic Party.
To be a serious contender for the 2020 presidential nomination, Cuomo must not only rack up a big third-term reelection victory in 2018, he must quell a primary challenge from the far left that could embarrass him as Zephyr Teachout did in 2014 when she garnered 34 percent of votes cast.
To achieve these ends, Cuomo must placate the Bernie Sanders wing of his party.
And he began that process by signing into law for fiscal year 2016-2017, a big spending state budget laden with fat.
Cuomo’s budget raises taxes.
The “Millionaire’s Tax” has been extended once again, and he approved a three-year health-insurance tax that will cost consumers $69 million.
A sop to a group that will have a large contingent at the next Democratic Convention, organized labor: a tax deduction for union dues.
E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center think tank, points out that this plum “is effectively a $35 million gratuity for an already privileged caste of (mostly government) workers, in this case, mainly those drawing six-figure incomes.”
To make inroads with Hollywood’s beautiful people, Cuomo extended the $420 million annual tax credit on in-state movie and TV production — a cause favored by media companies, studio owners, producers and movie labor.
And then there is Bernie Sanders’ number one favorite: free college tuition for state university students whose families make under $125,000 annually.
Cuomo pushed for what he has called an “irrefutably smart” program so he can claim he was the first in the nation to get it done.
But few on the left or right have marveled over the plan.
New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks, while conceding that Donald Trump “sets the bar very high,” declared that “Cuomo’s free-tuition plan gets the award for the worst public policy idea of the year….”
He listed seven sensible reasons why the “Cuomo College Fiasco” is counterproductive.
Brooks concluded it is regressive and may actually “widen the gap between rich and poor” because the lure of free tuition will cause better prepared middle class kids to apply and “that will exclude students with lower credentials who tend to be from more disadvantaged homes.”
Interestingly, the Times editorial board agreed.
Pointing out there are a “lot of holes” in the program, the editors quoted McMahon’s comment that “Mr. Cuomo has ‘hastily reverse-engineered’ the process to get the headline he wanted.”
To buy off other interest groups, there’s billions in pork-barrel spending including $400 million more for Cuomo’s scandal-ridden Buffalo projects and $385 million for a slush fund that hands over money for projects of favored state and local officials.
New York’s $153 billion record-breaking budget was a big win for Cuomo’s presidential ambitions but a loser for taxpayers who must pick up the tab.