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Opinion

A taxing day

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Mark Wilson

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Daily Point

NY reps get Cuomo’s wrath

The politics of being a GOP House member in New York, never simple, are decidely more complicated with the progress toward passage of a massive GOP-backed change to the nation’s tax code that would devastate many New Yorkers.

And now the state’s governor is going all full-court press on them.

In a Wednesday conference call with editorial boards, Andrew M. Cuomo railed against even the New York GOP House members who voted against the tax cuts, demanding that if the final bill passes Congress, they should resign.

“It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m voting no,’ ” Cuomo said of Lee Zeldin and Peter King of Long Island, Dan Donovan of Staten Island, John Faso of the Hudson Valley and upstater Elise Stefanik.

Cuomo argued that the initial no votes of these representatives are a farce, and that they were given permission to oppose the bill by Speaker Paul Ryan because he did not need them to create a majority.

“It’s not enough to be allowed to vote against it — you have to stop it,” Cuomo said. “You have to force the leadership to stand down. And if that doesn’t work, if you can’t stop it, say you will resign.”

Despite Cuomo’s rant, the five are not leaving, but they will have to worry about whether voters next year are of the same mind.

Meanwhile, the four upstate New York House members who voted for the bill — also vulnerable to Cuomo and voter wrath — are getting air cover for helping Ryan muscle it through.

A national Republican organization has begun running supportive ads in their districts. The American Action Network is paying for a $2.5 million national TV and digital ad campaign, thanking 29 GOP representatives who voted for the the bill, including four in New York. They are Claudia Tenney, Tom Reed, John Katco and Chris Collins.

The ads, which are running in Ryan’s Wisconsin district, feature a couple from the speaker’s state touting all the benefits of the tax proposal, like a higher standard deduction.

We can’t wait for the Cuomo ads in Wisconsin advertising New York State cheddar.

Lane Filler

Talking Point

Parking rule blocks protest

It’s not all that surprising that activists protesting the Republican tax plan would look to use Robert Mercer’s estate as their backdrop.

The Head of the Harbor billionaire and GOP donor spent years as a leader of the successful hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, which the Senate concluded in 2014 failed to pay nearly $7 billion in taxes.

So representatives of groups like New York Communities for Change and the Communication Workers of America showed up Wednesday at Mercer’s Owl’s Nest home, carrying banners saying the federal tax overhaul plan benefits the rich. They previously protested on the spot in March.

But this time, it didn’t go as smoothly. Mercer’s front gate, adorned with owl statues, was blocked by police cars, says Lucas Sanchez, Long Island director for NYCC. Protesters were told that village ordinances prohibit street parking and picketing, says Sanchez.

Head of the Harbor Police Chief Charles Lohmann tells The Point he told the drivers they’d be ticketed if they left their cars on the narrow road. “This was a very cordial exchange with the folks,” Lohmann said. “I also made clear we’re not gonna stop them from protesting.” He says he likely mentioned the picketing ordinance, too, but the main issue was the parking. In a previous protest on the site, he says, there were fewer if any cars.

The village’s code prohibits parking unless specified by signs. Picketing or demonstrating “before any individual residence in the village” is also described as unlawful, and the document’s Peace and Good Order chapter notes, “A protest, demonstration or picket which has a single person or family as its target would unreasonably interfere with the well-being, tranquility and privacy of the home.” Lohmann says that in more than a year in his role as chief, he has not enforced the picketing ordinance.

Undaunted, the demonstrators moved elsewhere: a short drive to the headquarters of Renaissance, where their protest was unimpeded. Maybe next time they will Uber to Owl’s Nest.

Mark Chiusano

Pencil Point

Art of the Flynn deal

More cartoons of the day

Pointing Out

Arbitrating tax hikes

The legendary local labor arbitrator whose pro-union decisions have helped drive state and local taxes in New York through the roof is publicly fuming about the GOP tax bill that would take away the federal deductions for those taxes.

Martin Scheinman, whose decisions as the head of numerous arbitration panels increased the salaries of New York police officers, teachers and firefighters tremendously and rewarded them with ultra-generous benefits, took to Facebook to criticize the legislation in Congress. Unlike Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who wants GOP members of Congress from New York to resign if they can’t defeat the tax overhaul, Scheinman wants them to become Democrats.

If those deductions disappear, the cost of high local taxes would escalate dramatically for New Yorkers — who in the past at least could say, “They’re deductible.”

For two decades, Scheinman headed separate arbitration panels for Long Island county and village police forces that repeatedly led to huge wins for the unions, as each group’s new deal leapfrogged previous awards he had granted. He also oversaw such decisions for unions representing teachers and firefighters.

“Its absurd to hear ‘these states are wasteful and deserve this treatment,’ ” Scheinman wrote in his public Facebook post. “These states take care of the less fortunate, invest in healthcare and education, address the environment and provide vital services.” So much so that property taxes here are about four times the national average, even though home values are only about double the national average.

If the deductions go away, the pressure on local governments to stop raising or even to lower taxes will be extreme. And that would clearly be bad for the arbitration business.

Lane Filler

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