Cuomo’s “gift” to corporations is at the expense of taxpayers & Democratic values


How predictable that political priorities in New York State become so scrambled. Imagine, for instance, a NYS governor representing the Democratic Party tempted to court favor with the corporate guys to the point that he proposes using a $2 billion NYS surplus to fund tax relief for corporations. This proposal comes at a time when the NYS unemployment rate is above the national average of 7%.

Contrast this example of confused political priorities with the clear vision of the new New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio. He wants to invest in human resources instead of throwing money at corporations in the form of tax breaks. He favors modestly increasing taxes on wealthy NYC residents in order to fund needed pre-K education programs. Now that’s sensible… and it also reflects Democratic Party priorities.

Cuomo: Conductor on the corporate railroad

Cuomo, though, believes in his own words that “business is the movement that pulls the train.” His new tax breaks for corporations include new tax credits to offset 20 percent of manufacturers’ property taxes. He believes–legitimately enough perhaps–that property taxes in NYS are “just intolerable.” And yes, property taxes are indeed bad enough. But why reduce NYS revenue still further for the future by reducing taxes on corporations? The eventual outcome of such tax relief for corporations will put more tax pressure in future years onto citizen taxpayers and onto NYS property owners. The governor’s proposed tax reduction for corporations from 7.1% to 6.5% is a just really just a little cookie to his moneyed supporters. It is not going to entice much more corporate investment into NYS anyway.

On the other hand de Blasio’s idea to invest in pre-K education is a much sounder idea. Politically, it is sensible, too. But then, de Blasio has already amply demonstrated that he is motivated by ideas that are consistent with a vision of community that goes beyond the trite idea that economic perks in the form of tax incentives drives responsible policy.

Is it really so clear that tax breaks for corporations are creating so many American jobs? No.

If it talks and walks like an elephant, it is an elephant

Personal political expediency is a sad substitute for value-driven leadership. As it is, Governor Cuomo’s career trajectory is looking more and more like he is a man ultimately destined to switch political parties. Moving to the other party might not eventually be such a bad idea because he acts more like a moderate Republican anyway.

In Mr. Cuomo we are seeing another politician who consistently acts politically on the basis of what he perceives to be in his own personal interest. I think he is often wrong in his judgments. And certainly he is wrong yet again if he thinks using a $2 billion surplus to give more tax relief to the corporate guys will earn him any more respect with his more thoughtful Democratic constituents.

It might be high time for the governor and his political allies to take a reality check and start standing for values-based policies. In any case a policy of using a budget surplus to provide more tax breaks to corporations at a time of economic hardship for many NYS residents is not a policy of fairness consistent with NYS Democratic Party values. Rather invest the surplus in pre-K education—in other words invest in real people.

Cuomo is by now very, very vulnerable to a primary challenge from the progressive direction. It just takes one bold de Blasio-like figure to mount a citizens’ campaign against Cuomo’s money. Don’t snicker—it could work. The worse it is financed, the more credibility it could have.

For now be kind, keep reading and stay in touch with true friends.

L. D. Davidson

L. D. Davidson 's column, The Razor's Edge, appears every Wednesday.