After the 2009 taxpayer-driven Republican victories across New York, Andrew M. Cuomo campaigned for tax caps in 2010. Facing his 2014 campaign, Cuomo announced a commission to recommend tax relief for New York’s citizens and businesses. The co-chairmen, former Gov. George E. Pataki and former Comptroller Carl McCall, lend the panel bipartisan gravitas.
Nevertheless, New Yorkers have reason to be skeptical.
On social and other issues dear to his party, Cuomo has wheeled, dealed and strong-armed lawmakers.
In legalizing gay marriage, the governor vowed to support vulnerable Republicans voting for legalization, and he rammed his gun control act through the Legislature, skipping a constitutionally mandated waiting period.
When he wanted to raise taxes to close a $2 billion budget deficit yet preserve the rhetorical fiction that he cut taxes, the governor called a special legislative session in December and raised $3 billion in taxes due to expire in January, of which $1 billion was used for minuscule “cuts.”
Cuomo can use the power of his office to get things done – when he wants the credit. For more politically dangerous matters, he uses a team, a council or a commission, controlled in substance by him, to create the illusion of gubernatorial action.
His Medicaid redesign team was commissioned with great fanfare in January 2011. Yet almost three years later, New York still spends more than Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania combined, and the New York Times and a congressional committee documented billions of dollars of waste and fraud.
His Mandate Relief Council, also announced in January 2011, has yet to produce substantial results.
His teacher evaluation process was left to school board and union negotiations, with the predictable result of agreements designed to secure state funds but undercut by side deals.
And rather than appoint a special prosecutor to tackle Albany’s culture of corruption, he appointed an unwieldy 29-member Moreland Commission with questionable authority to investigate legislators, a mandate to produce reports rather than root out corruption and apparently an informal veto for himself.
If serious about tax relief, the governor does not need a commission to tell him that some taxes (death and capital gains) when phased out pay for themselves, nor that New York needs lower income tax rates, nor that New York needs real spending restraints and mandate relief to pave the way for the real income and property tax cuts that will grow New York’s economy.
He has a superb budget staff to advise him and the political capital and skills to do it. All that is missing is the political will.
Ed Cox is chairman of the New York Republican State Committee.