Cuomo catching heat, unexpectedly, from the left

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Spin Cycle

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Liberal groups are critical of Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over his budget, which they contend does little to combat the growing gap between the working poor and the wealthy in New York.

"Tax cuts for the wealthy are immoral," the Rev. Stephen Phelps of the Presbytery of New York City said Monday. He was among more than 100 clerics and members of their congregations and parishes who held a prayer vigil Monday outside a legislative budget hearing to push for more aid for the needy.

Cuomo has centered his election-year budget on tax cuts for corporations, banks and middle-class New Yorkers, while opposing Mayor Bill de Blasio's proposal to add a New York City income tax surcharge on top earners. Cuomo is seeking to change New York's image as a high-tax state to attract more employers and spur what has been a slow economic recovery.

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The umbrella group NY Inequality, made up of advocates for food programs and more school aid and politically powerful public labor unions, said a period of worsening income inequality is no time to cut taxes. The advocates, emboldened by de Blasio's overwhelming win in the November election, said the working poor who took the brunt of the recession in New York deserve more state aid. The group formed last month.

"The governor works for the people of the state, not special interests," said Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa. "As the most recent Siena poll showed, there is overwhelming broad-based support for the governor's agenda."

In January's Siena College poll, 80 percent of liberals had a favorable view of Cuomo, compared with 66 percent of all voters polled.

"The facts of the budget are going to drive a big spike into those numbers if we can get it across clearly," said Michael Kink of the Strong Economy for All Coalition. "The budget . . . is constantly giving tax breaks to the wealthy and well-connected, and constantly cutting the safety net for everyone else."

"The governor is very good at legislating in sound bites, but it doesn't translate into sound public policy," said Ron Deutsch of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, a coalition of community, faith-based and human services groups.

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Kink issued a report that concluded the lower half of New York's workforce lost 16 percent of inflation-adjusted income from 1980 to 2010, based on state data. The said the earning power of the top 5 percent grew 222 percent during the period, with the top 1 percent seeing a 388-percent increase in earnings adjusted for inflation.

"We need Governor Cuomo to focus on providing more funding for anti-hunger initiatives rather than promoting more tax cuts for the wealthy," said Mark Dunlea of Hunger Action Network.

Teachers unions and parent advocates influential with the legislature say Cuomo's plan for a 4-percent increase in school aid -- double his overall cap on budget increases -- is inadequate after years of cuts and flat spending.

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