Politics make strange bedfellows, it is often said, and that maxim is probably never truer than in an election year. How better to explain Gov. Andrew Cuomo teaming up with two of his erstwhile political adversaries, former Comptroller Carl McCall and former Gov. George Pataki, to explore ways to cut taxes in next year’s budget.
You already knew next year was an election year without having to look because this spring, lawmakers voted — more than a year in advance — to send $350 rebate checks to middle-class families next fall, weeks before the election! Make no mistake: These guys know how and when to curry voters’ favor.
And Cuomo, who’s already done a pretty decent job cutting taxes in his first three years as governor, wants more. He’d already appointed McCall to head a commission charged with finding ways to simplify the state’s tax code — it’s due to report back this December — and he reportedly wants this new commission to focus on lowering property taxes.
He probably won’t find many New Yorkers who’ll argue with him, but unless the state is in line for some kind of windfall, it’s hard to see where the money to offset property tax cuts is going to come from. The 2 percent tax cap imposed on localities and school districts a couple years ago has definitely made an impact, but not all of it has been positive: Some deep service cuts have had to be made and educational programs sacrificed.
Moreover, the state has yet to deal with the glaring inequality in state aid to wealthy school districts vs. poor ones, in accordance with a court order several years ago. Unless lawmakers from the former suddenly become willing to give up some of their aid, or the state finds billions to give needier district more, this issue is going to remain a problem — and a potentially huge liability for the state.
So even though property tax cuts would certainly be appreciated by the overwhelming majority of taxpayers, and help incumbents at the polls, politicians need to be mindful of their impact regarding the state’s other obligations.