Today’s NY Post ran the following op-ed that I wrote in response to the Governor’s sudden shift in agenda. The online version can be found here.
Cuomo against … his own agenda?
Would a pro-business candidate back an agenda that seeks to raise labor costs for small employers, hike New York’s already-too-high taxes and create new avenues for trial lawyers to drag small businesses into court?
Would he make a political bargain with a group that thinks that ObamaCare doesn’t go far enough? These questions answer themselves.
Yet that’s exactly what Gov. Cuomo did in order to win the endorsement of the Working Families Party, a left-wing outfit whose own Web site dubs the governor’s fiscal plan the “Inequality Budget,” despite spending almost $140 billion (including federal grants).
The WFP clamors for increased spending virtually across the board and for higher taxes to foot the bill.
The Working Families Party had been publicly threatening to run its own candidate for governor this year, something Cuomo wanted badly to avoid.
So, to pacify the aggressively anti-business WFP, he agreed to publicly embrace key parts of its agenda — and to break with the handful of Democratic state senators who’ve allied with Senate Republicans to stray from the hard-left agenda.
Cuomo’s hard-left shift is a shock not just to small-business owners but also to many taxpayers. After all, the governor has spent nearly his entire first term — and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars — creating the image of a moderate determined to grow the economy.
You can’t watch TV without seeing his glittery ads touting the state’s new “pro-business” policies.
Now he’s in a pickle. The state’s business community has been supportive of many of the governor’s economic initiatives.
That includes the group I head, the New York branch of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents nearly 11,000 small businesses in our state.
We praised his pension reform and property-tax cap three years ago. Same for most of the tax cuts he enacted this year, including lower corporate taxes, lower taxes for manufacturers and a lower estate tax.
On the other hand, we had hoped he’d join us on some other reforms that we’ve been pushing for years. One is a lower income tax, since small business owners mostly file as individuals.
Another is one we believe vital to making his local-tax reforms fully effective: mandate relief — reducing the spending burdens that the state orders local governments to take on. It’s hard for localities to limit taxes when Albany won’t let them streamline their own spending.
We also agree with a growing number of editorial pages that have called for the repeal of the New York’s one-of-a-kind Scaffold Law, which makes construction needlessly expensive but benefits only trial lawyers at the expense of small employers and taxpayers.
Before Cuomo embraced the WFP, there was some reason to believe that these reforms could come to fruition.
No more — not with the governor’s new alliance with the Working Families Party, whose goals are completely incompatible with the pro-growth policies that New York needs.
Gov. Cuomo can’t plausibly claim, on the one hand, that he intends to reduce income taxes, reform Scaffold, reduce government spending or curb regulations and, on the other hand, pledge his allegiance to a fringe political party that is at perpetual war with the business community and taxpayers.
We were more supportive of the governor who said in his first State of the State Address that “New York has no future as the tax capital of America.”
That sounded like a leader who understands the state’s real economic challenges and who can bridge the partisan divide with common-sense economic policies.
The candidate who made a deal with the Working Families Party sounds very different.
Mike Durant is New York state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents hundreds of thousands of small-business owners across the country and more than 10,000 members statewide.