Good afternoon. Today’s points:
- Gov. Cuomo reaches left
- Teachout's tax twist
- NIFA trials and tribulations
Passing the 15-point test
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s newfound support for State Senate Democrats likely hints at a leftward shift in his campaign for re-election in 2018. Cuomo sent a list of 15 policy points Democrats must embrace to win his endorsement this season.
Cuomo has endorsed three Long Island Democrats — Todd Kaminsky, Adam Haber and Jim Gaughran, who is running against longtime Republican incumbent Carl Marcellino. Winning two of these seats would be sufficient for Democrats to make a play for the Senate majority, depending on how the Independent Democratic Conference caucus lands.
The 15 points include some Cuomo has not been able to get approved with the GOP holding the gavel. They include codifying Roe v. Wade in state law to protect a woman’s right to abortion, 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, and stricter ethics reforms such as limiting outside income of legislators and closing the LLC loophole.
In 2014, Cuomo received a surprisingly strong challenge from Zephyr Teachout, who was backed by the left-leaning Working Families Party. She had little funding or name recognition — and her relatively strong showing likely signaled Cuomo that he was moving too far to the right for his party.
And on that note ...
Speaking of Zephyr Teachout, she is now running for an open Congressional seat, caught between the property-tax concerns of voters in the Hudson Valley district where she recently moved and the teachers unions that have supported her since her run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2014.
Now she has a new commercial that makes an ... umm... novel argument in an attempt to romance both educators who want raises and more education spending and taxpayers who don’t want to pay for those things. The ad shows pictures of everyday locals, then Teachout says, “This is who should have control of our property taxes, not Albany. It’s why my problem with any cap is that it takes away local control.”
The implication is that if locals handled school district budgets and weren’t subject to the Albany-imposed cap that keeps tax increases down to 2 percent annually or the rate of inflation, property taxes could be controlled. The reality is that from 1982 to 2011, school taxes in New York increased at a rate of 6 percent a year, growing from $3.5 billion to $19.7 billion, or more than three times faster than inflation.
Teachout also has argued that she wants a “circuit breaker” that would serve as a personal tax cap on those who can’t afford to pay by limiting taxes to a percentage of income, rather than the current tax cap. And she makes the broader pitch that if there weren’t loopholes in state tax law, rich people and corporations would have to send more money to Albany and the state could better support school districts and municipalities, thus lowering local property taxes.
Even more bewildering in her messaging strategy is that she paints her deeply conservative GOP opponent, John Faso, as a guy who never met a tax increase he didn’t love, which might be a hard line for a newcomer to sell to people who elected him to the State Assembly for years.
NIFA, take control
George Marlin may have left the board of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, but his strong voice for fiscal rectitude still resonates. In a column for “The Island Now” published before the Nassau County Legislature approved Monday all of the planned spending but not the increased fees necessary to pay for its budget, Marlin said the budget already presented a dangerous mix of high hopes and delusions that’s going to lead to extraordinary deficits.
Marlin’s point is that NIFA must once and for all force the county to craft an acceptable budget, and take over the process if the county fails to accomplish that task. While NIFA has the legal power, granted by the state, to cut expenses to balance the budget, it probably doesn’t have the authority to raise taxes or fees.
Marlin, a Republican, was an ally of former NIFA chair Ron Stack, whom Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo replaced because Stack was trying to make the county balance its budget without borrowing. Stack’s successor, Jon Kaiman, seemed to acknowledge how far the county’s spending had swung out of control only as he had one foot out the door to run for Congress. Before that, he brokered the end of the police and CSEA pay freeze that was saving Nassau hundreds of millions of dollars.
Now the chair is Adam Barsky, who so far has been big on sending stern missives to County Executive Edward Mangano, who is under federal indictment on corruption charges, but less tough on actually forcing a balanced budget.