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Another Voice: Cuomo budget increases taxes to fund economic development disasters

By Doug Kellogg

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that federal tax reform is an “economic missile.” You might have also heard economic development spending has Western New York booming. Both points are wrong.

Far from being a wasteland, New York has been boosted.

Estimates from Tax Policy Center show upwards of 80 percent of Americans will save money thanks to federal reforms, with only 5 percent seeing a hike. Many New Yorkers are already seeing an increase in their paychecks. Businesses will grow thanks to a corporate tax rate that has seen massive improvement.

The Buffalo area can use this help. It has unfortunately seen an economic dip, with a loss of nearly 5,000 jobs between December 2016 and December 2017.

Albany should embrace federal reform and pursue state unfunded mandate reform to directly relieve high property tax burdens. Instead, the governor’s budget turns to $1 billion in tax and fee hikes, dropping a bomb taxpayers can’t afford.

These taxes would be devastating, led by a tax on health insurance companies, even though New Yorkers already pay the second-highest premiums on average.

They include a tax on opioids that puts the state in the dubious position of relying on revenue from the very crisis they’re fighting, as well as fees on for-hire vehicle operators, and a right-of-way fee that would drive broadband costs up.

The governor even rehashed an expansion of the state’s internet sales tax that will make online shopping more expensive.

New York already has the worst state and local tax burden and 49th-ranked business climate. Why make that worse?

Proponents may say it’s about closing a $4 billion-plus deficit, but it’s really about protecting politicians’ priorities instead of protecting taxpayers.

The prime example is the $8 billion-a-year the state spends on the most expensive, least effective economic development programs in the nation, according to the Upjohn Institute.

What has all this money bought?

The Buffalo Billion has landed at the center of a federal corruption trial due to bid-rigging allegations centered on the governor’s former top aide, Joseph Percoco. The SolarCity factory remains behind schedule. Though, Elon Musk’s bank account seems healthy thanks to $5 billion in subsidies from taxpayers in New York and around the country.

Regional Economic Development Councils aren’t working. They’re creating conflicts of interest, and councils that won bank settlement awards have more money than projects to spend it on.

Start-Up NY created just 722 net new jobs.

These programs should be ripe for cuts and investigations. Instead the governor’s budget gives Empire State Development a 25 percent increase.

They’ll get $50 million for more ads that too often run in state, and a new promotional fund for photonics factories to cover for failures like Photonica and Avogy pulling out of Rochester.

Western New Yorkers are getting tax relief from Washington. They should demand Albany stop hiking their taxes to protect cronyism.

Doug Kellogg is communications director for Reclaim New York Initiative which works to make communities more affordable and government more transparent.

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