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Opinion

Cuomo talks about SALT, with some pepper

Credit: Newsday/Amanda Fiscina

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Daily Point

Cuomo knocks on wood

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo visited the Newsday editorial board in Melville on Monday to make his pitch for why he deserves a third term.

Cuomo made sure to knock on the wooden part of a kidney-shaped conference table where he was seated before he got into details of what he thought he could accomplish upon winning. And that led the way to a short list of which legislation could pass if Democrats take control of the State Senate.

The list included strengthening abortion rights; preventing the purchase or possession of guns by troubled individuals; raising the age for purchasing guns to 21; protecting against the federal government’s tax legislation that capped state and local tax deductions; passing the Child Victims Act, allowing those who were sexually abused as minors to file lawsuits; and approving ethics reform (he later said that would include banning outside income and having a full-time legislature).

Cuomo said those issues had been the “main breakdowns” between Republicans and Democrats and could be completed in “the first phase” of a new term.

When asked whether these issues would be done legislatively or in the budget, Cuomo said, “In my lexicon, in the budget is legislation, right, because it is a piece of legislation. And those things are in that long piece of legislation.”

So if Cuomo wins, we should apparently look for a long legislative — excuse us — budget season.

Mark Chiusano

Talking Point

Commuter tax on fast lane to nowhere

Despite dire-sounding warnings from Republicans running for State Senate, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday there is no future for a commuter tax in New York State.

The editorial board has heard from GOP candidates who’ve expressed concern that a Democratic-controlled State Senate could lead to a resurrection of the commuter tax on state residents who worked in New York City; that tax was rescinded in 1999.

To support their claim, they note that the last time Democrats held the chamber, in 2009, the State Legislature imposed an MTA payroll tax on suburban businesses and the self-employed. Under Republican control, it was later substantially rolled back.

So, during his visit to Newsday, the editorial board asked Cuomo whether a commuter tax was on the table.

“It could be on the table,” Cuomo said with an exaggerated pause. “Just not in this state.”

After a laugh, Cuomo said he wouldn’t have to worry about whether he’d sign such a bill, because, he said, it would never go forward in the State Legislature.

“They would never pass a commuter tax bill,” he said.

“OK, but you will not sign it?” we asked again.

“They will never pass it, so it will not come to signing it,” Cuomo said. “There’s no discussion of a commuter tax bill.”

Instead, Cuomo said, there are three options to add revenue to the MTA’s coffers: raising fares, more funding from both New York City and the state, or congestion pricing — the concept of tolling Manhattan roadways or the free bridges, with the money going into the MTA’s pot.

Cuomo said the answer starts with congestion pricing — and, if re-elected, he would push for such a plan in the next budget.

That, he said, likely won’t be enough. And more creative ideas, like selling naming rights to subway stations or even using financing via real estate development, won’t be enough either.

Ultimately, that means that even with the most successful congestion-pricing plan imaginable, the city and the state likely will have to pony up more money.

Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

In memoriam

Final Point

A grain of SALT

Education funding is hard, no matter how you slice it. And really, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pointed out, how you slice it is a big part of the discussion. Asked how we should fund public education in New York State, the governor laid down one of his patented explainers, saying it’s just three questions:

  • How much?
  • Who gets it?
  • How do we raise it?

It’s true, those are exactly the three questions The Point had been dreaming of getting answered. And Cuomo did talk for a minute or so about creating a system that has complete transparency on funding and spending, state and local, by both school and district. He then spoke of the history of how money got divvied up based on tradition and regional political calculations, and how money should instead be directed where it is most needed. But when it came to how best to generate the funding, through traditional property taxes or through some new method like income taxes, the governor was off to the races on SALT, the new $10,000 federal limit on deductions for state and local property and income taxes.

“You have to stop SALT first,” Cuomo said, calling it a factor that will “transform the economic trajectory of the state.”

Cuomo argued that the 12 states most affected by the tax-code change now have a tax burden far higher than other states, and that if Democrats take the House of Representatives, New York’s Democratic members should refuse to vote on legislation of any kind until SALT is repealed.

“Mr. Suozzi, Ms. Rice, whoever is elected, do not take a vote on any issue until you fix SALT,” Cuomo said. “Don’t come home unless you fix SALT. Move if you don’t fix SALT. To one of the non-SALT states.”

As yet there is no word whether the non-SALT states would accept New York’s attempts to export moderate Democratic House members. Certainly, tariffs would be in order.

Lane Filler

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