Stopping in New York City recently, President Donald Trump attended a fundraiser at the home of billionaire private equity manager Stephen Schwartzman.
Longtime Trump friend and fellow outer-borough real estate heir Richard LeFrak also was on hand.
Both Schwartzman and LeFrak have been identified as Trump advisers on economics and infrastructure.
Exactly what impact they’ve had so far in that vein is unclear.
Now both donors are reportedly appealing to Trump to change the tax plan — specifically where it would restrict taxpayers’ ability to deduct state and local taxes (SALT) on federal forms.
This momentous change would sting many middle-class Long Islanders already paying high local taxes. Some big players warn it could also shrink real-estate values.
No major promises were elicited. Whether he’s deeply involved or not, a de facto decision time is approaching for Trump.
He can bend to the cries of well-heeled friends as well as homeowners in high-tax states — or stick to the stated White House position that New Yorkers will no longer have their expensive public services written off via deductions.
Back in October, Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney said of the Congress and the proposed state-and-local-tax elimination: “I hope they don’t wobble.”
“If you and I make the same amount of money, we live in a house that has the same value, our car is the same car, shouldn’t we pay the exact same amount in federal taxes? We should. That’s fair.
“But if you live in New York and I live in South Carolina, I actually pay more in federal tax than you do. And that’s not fair. And we hope that that does remain part of the process.”
One month later, Trump’s budget man turned it up a notch.
“Is it the federal government’s fault that New York taxes are so high that they’re driving people out of the state?” Mulvaney asked before the House voted to kill the state-and-local-tax deduction.
“Even with the federal deduction, people have been leaving New York — high-income folks have left already,” he said. “So I don’t think it’s up to the federal government to save New York from its bad decisions.”
The idea that “high-income folks have left already” evokes the absurd image of tumbleweeds blowing through Fifth Avenue, Head of the Harbor, Great Neck, Sag Harbor and Kings Point.
Does the president himself see it that way?
Until undermined or overruled, Mulvaney’s pitch represents the president’s thinking.
The high-stakes choice of whether to slow momentum on the tax bill in favor of major new compromises belongs to Trump, in tandem with the Senate and House of Representatives.
Going once . . .