State’s business climate will be focus of governor’s race - The Buffalo News

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State’s business climate will be focus of governor’s race

WASHINGTON – Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been given a bit of a lift from the archconservative Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform. The organization published a list of Democratic governors who raised state taxes a total of $58 billion since 2011 and said Cuomo bucked that trend by signing into law a cut in New York State corporate taxes.

Some state Republicans will chafe at this unlooked-for praise from Americans for Tax Reform by saying that adjustments Cuomo allowed early on in his term resulted in higher taxes. One of these was Cuomo’s decision in 2011 to extend a tax surcharge on the wealthy, after he said he wouldn’t.

Nonetheless, a bouquet from Norquist’s outfit is not a bad way for Cuomo – considering what some other Democrats have done – to begin a campaign for re-election.

Of the Democratic governors, Pat Quinn of Illinois seems to have raised the most revenue, $27.3 billion since 2011.

However, Maryland’s Martin O’Malley seems to have been the most imaginative – raising fees and taxes 20 times, according to Americans for Tax Reform, with a three-year impact on his small state of $3 billion. Maryland has an advantage New York does not share. It is a Washington office center and bedroom, gorging itself on the growth of the federal bureaucracy and lobbying community. So its residents won’t feel much pain from O’Malley’s exotic fees and taxes on offshore wind, rain, storm water, a Chesapeake Bay restoration charge and a higher charge for death certificates.

Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller long ago began the sharp, and expensive, lurch to the left, and an industrial exodus to lower tax states. Rockefeller wanted to be president, just like O’Malley.

New York’s last-place business climate standing among the states, judging from the acceptance speech Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino gave Thursday, is going to be the Republicans’ unifying theme. And the aggravation Cuomo is getting from Texas’ Republican governor, Rick Perry, is no help.

Perry challenged Cuomo to a debate on New York’s business environment a few weeks ago, and the Associated Press reported Cuomo said, “no thanks.”

Texas just persuaded Toyota Motors USA to move a large part of its Torrance, Calif., operations to the Lone Star State. But it will cost Texas and its localities more than $40 million in tax incentives.

In addition to a massive supply of cheap labor because of immigration from Latin America, Texas has no corporate or individual income taxes and only a small gross receipt tax.

Cuomo deserves recognition for putting the brakes to the so-called “on budget” spending, but he has done literally nothing to deal with the costly operations that his predecessors – going back to the 1930s – have put in place as independent agencies.

This references the 640 public benefit corporations, called public authorities, that the Legislature and all of the governors have created since Franklin Roosevelt was governor. The off-budget debt of these agencies is well over $120 billion – more than double what the Legislature authorizes “on budget” every year. Only a handful of these agencies need permission to go more deeply in debt.

Astorino’s speech was a good account of the problems the state has in attracting business. But there’s no news in this. It will help if Astorino outlines what he’s going to do about it.

Getting rid of, or consolidating, this semi-hidden government is a challenge. One agency was called the Overcoat Protective Authority. It was created in 1986 to entice a business out of Indiana to upstate New York. The business failed. But it took another 20 years to flush the agency off the books.


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