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State’s slow-starting promise of tax cuts will be good for taxpayers – eventually

Is everyone excited about his New York State income tax cut?

Didn’t think so.

It’s not quite a joke – and if it was, it wouldn’t have been a funny one – but it’s definitely political. Nine years from now New Yorkers will benefit by several hundred dollars per year, a timeline that gives Albany plenty of wiggle room to take it back or otherwise molest it. In the meantime, legislators – especially Senate Republicans – have something they can try to sell to voters as a reason to re-elect them come November.

That’s not the only gimmick Albany is about to unfurl in this election year. Last June, lawmakers approved a four-year rebate program that begins this fall with checks of $185 mailed to upstate residents. Not coincidentally, the checks will be mailed just before the November elections.

No one, we presume, will refuse to accept the check or turn down the tax cut, which doesn’t begin to kick in for another two years and which will, by 2025, lower the tax rate to 5.5 percent for those earning less than $150,000 per year and to 6 percent for those earning that amount or more. To be sure, even these small savings are better than the kind of tax increase that New York once loved to impose.

Still, as financial planner Anthony Ogorek told News columnist David Robinson, “I would view it as more of a political document than a real economic development tool.” So would anyone who is paying attention.

It’s hard not to see this as the fig leaf Senate Republicans are using to show their supporters that they got something in exchange for increasing the minimum wage and approving paid family leave. That’s fine. A tax cut is a tax cut no matter how far down the road, and anything is welcome in the nation’s highest-taxed state.

But the larger point is that, in a left-leaning state, they negotiated a wage hike that does a good job of balancing the competing interests of business and low-wage workers. And the family leave law gives New York a program that makes it attractive to employees while shielding businesses from its funding costs.

Both those programs are worth defending, by Democrats and Republicans, alike. If Republicans – or Democrats, for that matter – really wanted to make a difference, they should have insisted that the tax cuts take effect sooner and reach their lowest rate more quickly. That, too, would be worth defending, by Democrats and Republicans, alike.

But the tax cut that passed falls somewhere south of useful and north of insult. As one observer noted, New Yorkers have gained much more from the decrease in gasoline costs than they ever will from this political maneuver. It’s not a terrible thing, but it could have been much better.