New York residents making under $75,000 annually would pay no state income taxes under a plan Republican gubernatorial candidate William Weld offered Tuesday.
The former Massachusetts governor did not propose a specific plan for making up for the loss of $6.9 billion in revenues the state now receives from those taxpayers, except a passing reference about cutting expenditures on the Medicaid health insurance program.
"I don't generally start out, when analyzing a tax cut, saying how am I possibly going to pay for this. That's looking at it from the point of the governor," Weld told reporters after a speech in Albany to a gathering of small business executives.
"The government doesn't own that money. The taxpayers own that money until the government takes it away from them through taxes," he added of a plan he says will encourage young adults with jobs to remain in New York, especially upstate.
Weld, along with former Assemblyman John Faso, another candidate vying for the GOP nomination for governor, used the small business function to try to set themselves out as controllers of spending and taxes, lashing out at Democratic front-runner Eliot Spitzer for offering government program proposals they insist would add billions to the state budget.
Weld offered his tax cut plan at the beginning of a tour of upstate, an economically battered region. The region was thrust into the headlines by Spitzer's recent reference to upstate as resembling Appalachia.
Weld's trip will include stops in Western New York on Friday, including the Town of Wheatfield in Niagara County.
Cathy O'Keefe, who owns three businesses in Niagara Falls, already gave Weld an earful Tuesday in Albany at the small business meeting. After hearing Spitzer's comment about upstate, O'Keefe half-joked she thought about changing the name of her one company, Discover Western New York, to Discover Appalachia. "It looks like Baghdad," she said of Niagara Falls.
She told the candidates they needed to pay particular attention to the Western New York economy, but that voters in the region were growing especially skeptical of promises from state officials. "The problem is inspiring them to have hope when for 30 years this government has failed them," she said of the region's residents.
The Weld tax cut plan would save $3,884 for a single person making $70,000, his campaign said. For a couple with two children making $70,000 the state income tax savings would be $2,864.
"If we want to retain our best resource, New York's workers, we must remove the shackles of taxation and return money to the people who have earned it," Weld said.