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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"The politics of cutting taxes"
ALBANY, Oct. 7 -- A few weeks ago in this column, I posed the question and examined the political odds whether long-overdue, badly needed, meaningful tax and regulatory reforms could be on the horizon for New York’s workers, families, communities, small businesses, manufacturers and every other taxpayer, especially upstate property taxpayers, in 2014.
I concluded that column, after noting that there were at least strong hints of a legislative consensus building to move in this direction, this way, “At the moment, it’s looking like we may just have a puncher’s chance to win this next round on tax and regulatory reform.”
Last week, we won the first round of a fight that’s likely to go the distance in 2014. That’s because Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a bipartisan “Tax Relief Commission” headed by former Governor George Pataki, a Republican, and former Democratic State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, two high-profile political figures in New York government, and a well-regarded team of statewide fiscal, business and labor leaders, to develop a comprehensive set of tax-cut recommendations by December for the governor’s and the Legislature’s consideration.
The governor charged the commission with focusing on property tax relief, but to also not ignore the fact that New York’s business tax climate is considered dismal by many important decision makers.
“The responsible budgets and fiscal reforms put in place over the last three years have put the state in a position to seriously tackle the ‘tax capital’ mentality that for too long has driven businesses and families from New York,” the governor said in his announcement.
Positive news. We’ve endured significant budget deficits and been forced to make tough choices to climb out of them since 2011. But the administration now projects a $1.5-billion budget surplus in 2016, and a $1.9-billion surplus the following year. This turnaround, the governor said, offers the opportunity to consider how to "use this period of growth to actually increase the economic competitiveness of the state of New York."
Economic competitiveness remains priority No. 1 in my view. But you can count on the pushback (in fact, it’s already started) from those who would immediately spend any surplus instead of returning it to taxpayers. So it’s important that the governor has used this new commission, right out of the gate, to stake a claim to any future state surpluses being used for “new ways that we can reduce the burdensome taxes facing our businesses and our families, and by doing so make our state more competitive and fuel economic growth.”
Let’s make it clear that not a single taxpayer needs this Commission as a reminder that New York is a high-taxed, overregulated state in which to live, work and raise a family. We’ve known that for as long as I can remember. A series of Senate hearings across the state this fall (including one on manufacturing I’m hosting this Wednesday at Corning Community College) have been doing a good job of reinforcing the fact that New York’s tax and regulatory burden remains the single-greatest obstacle to upstate economic growth and private-sector job creation. But the new Tax Relief Commission is undeniably important to moving the politics of cutting taxes in New York State forward.
Skeptics will say the commission is just blowing more smoke, that it’s just another election-year ploy to keep a fed-up electorate at bay. Fair enough. I’ve certainly said myself in the past that while New York government, including under this governor, has been very good at creating these study groups and task forces, there’s been a less-than-stellar record of following through on the direct actions needed to make a difference.
Mandate relief comes to mind as the prime example of past failures. But this specific Tax Relief Commission, arriving as it does at this time, when government is breaking down at so many levels, drives up the political stakes riding on its success. In other words, this one better work. A lot’s going to be expected from this new commission – from legislators like myself, yes, but especially from aforementioned New York voters, especially upstate, tired of all the endless talk and looking for the relief. Count me among them.
There’s plenty on the line for Governor Cuomo here. He’s going to have a lot riding on the commission’s ultimate success. Same goes for ex-Governor Pataki and ex-Comptroller McCall – who’ve built careers and reputations on accomplishment in public service. The truth is there’s a lot at stake for all us. Nothing changes in New York until this state’s tax and regulatory burden is lifted.
The Senate Majority's on board with the pursuit of a tax-cutting agenda in 2014. We’ve been driving this train for a long time. But when everything’s said and done, bipartisan, across-the-board cooperation will be the determining factor – and this Commission is directly aimed at solidifying that legislative consensus to act. That’s what stands out, to me, as the commission’s overriding value and importance.
So we’ll see, and we’ll reserve the right to think differently down the road. But for now it can’t hurt, and it could truly help by providing some of the political push we’re going to need to cut taxes and eliminate regulations, really cut taxes and eliminate regulations, in New York State.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869