ALBANY -- He battled them in a particularly nasty 2002 gubernatorial campaign, but Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo turned Wednesday to George Pataki and Carl McCall to help him launch an initiative that likely will be a key part of his 2014 agenda, when he is up for re-election.
Cuomo named his former rivals as leaders of a new commission charged with formulating ways to cut taxes in New York, especially property taxes. It is slated to report recommendations in December, just as Cuomo will be putting together his 2014 State of the State address. The Democrat, who was widely seen as veering to the political left over the past two years, is signaling he will move back to the center and push tax cuts next year.
At a news conference in Purchase, Cuomo said that relatively flat spending and timely state budgets over his first three years in office now "spells tax relief."
"We are way out of pace with the rest of the country," Cuomo said in announcing the panel. "Property taxes are a scourge all across this state."
On a day of all smiles and handshakes, Cuomo, former Gov. Pataki and former state Comptroller McCall cited the federal government shutdown and said they would work in bipartisanship to come up with recommendations.
Eleven years ago, things weren't so friendly. In 2002, Republican Pataki was running for a third term as governor while McCall and Cuomo were duking it out for the Democratic nomination to oppose him. Pataki had ousted Cuomo's father, Mario, from office in 1994. Though he led McCall in the early polls, Andrew Cuomo's campaign eventually collapsed. An underfunded McCall went on to lose big to Pataki. In retrospect, the year marked Pataki's final electoral victory, McCall's last run for state office and the low point of Andrew Cuomo's political career.
Along the way, Cuomo upset some Democrats who felt his challenge hurt McCall's campaign. And his harsh criticism of Pataki infuriated some Republicans.
"I have to confess," Pataki joked at the news conference. "When I got the call from Governor Cuomo, I wasn't sure he dialed the right number."
The Republican said he agreed to serve on the panel because he determined it "a sincere effort not to be political" about taxes.
Business groups applauded the announcement. Liberal and education groups said they feared it signaled a rollback to Cuomo's promises to spend more on prekindergarten and other programs. Assemb. Kieran Michael Lalor (R-Fishkill), a vocal Cuomo critic, called the tax panel "another do-nothing commission."