Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget address was more succinct and to the point in roughly 40 minutes then the 90-minute oratorical flourish of the State of the State.
Cuomo talked about changing the income tax structure to an employer-based payroll tax in order to offset the capping of the deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000 in the new federal tax plan. He also suggested imposing new taxes on opioids and health care companies.
One thing was conspicuously absent from the speech — any mention of cutting state spending.
The budget plan comes in at more than $168 billion. There was no talk about perhaps reducing the size of the state workforce. There was no talk of lifting costly state mandates such as special education requirements that go well beyond those of the federal government; the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law, which preserves the annual salary increases for educators even when a contract has expired; or the Wick’s Law, that requires separate bidding of the electrical, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning components of a municipal or school capital project.
There was no talk of taking a closer look at where and how the state spends money.
Instead, Cuomo outlined a confusing and complex bureaucratic change that puts the onus on employers to pay the income tax and get a reimbursement.
E.J. McMahon, research director for the fiscally conservative think tank the Empire Center, criticized Cuomo for not proposing to change the state law to prevent the $10,000 cap from applying to people deducting property taxes on their state return. Currently, the state law has language that requires it to mirror federal law.
You got me backwards. I’m not suggesting we go with the $10,000 cap. I’m saying the exact opposite: we should decouple form the $10,000 cap, or otherwise we will be increasing taxes (a bad thing!) by $400 million.
Even Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said in a statement that he wanted to hear more on the spending side of the equation.
“We need to be mindful of unnecessary spending this year and focus on balancing our budget and making New York more affordable for middle-class families. Our state has continuously ranked among the worst states in the country when it comes to property taxes, this needs to change,” he said in a news release.
I agree. Instead of focusing all the attention on revenues, the state must also look at the spending side of the equation.