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Cuomo, NY legislators call for tax cuts

From Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to Senate Republicans

From Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to Senate Republicans to business groups, a drumbeat for election-year tax cuts is underway. (Aug. 25, 2013) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

ALBANY -- From Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to Senate Republicans to business groups, a drumbeat for election-year tax cuts is underway.

Advocates urged state lawmakers Wednesday to reduce broad-based taxes for all New Yorkers next year instead of continuing a pattern of politically targeted tax cuts.

Some called for rethinking certain tax credits. One group called for lower tax rates for upstate residents.

It was just the latest in a recent spate of similar calls. No one idea has gained traction yet, but lawmakers are making moves that appear geared to lay the groundwork for some type of tax cut in 2014 -- when the governor and all state lawmakers are up for re-election.

Earlier this year, Cuomo and legislators approved the extension of the "millionaires' tax," a surcharge on high earners that garners the state an additional $2 billion per year.

But Cuomo recently told attendees at a Long Island fundraiser that he wants to reduce taxes next year. Aides declined to provide further details.

Some insiders and politicians expect Cuomo to shift back to the political center next year after two years of what many considered his focus on the left.

At an event Wednesday in the Adirondack Park, the governor spoke generally about the state's high taxes: "I said when I was elected we have no future as the tax capital of the nation" -- a line he's used before.

As he spoke, the state Senate opened hearings about 130 miles south in Albany to examine the state's tax code.

The forum took place about a week after Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said he'd be happy to work with Cuomo to reduce taxes.

At the State Capitol hearing, Joseph Henchman of the national Tax Foundation told lawmakers that New Yorkers pay more than $6,000 per capita in taxes and in terms of percent of income, 12.8 percent -- the nation's highest.

He said lawmakers should rethink targeted tax cuts -- such as the film-industry tax credit -- and instead focus on broad taxes, such as income tax.

The film tax credit "isn't effective for economic development," Henchman told legislators.

That echoed E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center For New York State Policy, who decried the "general drift of state tax policy . . . toward targeted tax breaks."

"The result is a tax code increasingly cluttered with credits, deductions and other loopholes, driven more by short-term policy goals and political considerations than by the basic principles of tax fairness, efficiency, simplicity, visibility and competitiveness," McMahon said.

Unshackle Upstate, a business-backed group, called for reducing income taxes for upstate residents who earn $50,000 or less annually and reducing sales taxes in certain counties.

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