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Pledging tax cuts

Three cheers for an election year. Or for an improving economy that has New York apparently headed toward a budget surplus.
One or both probably has a lot to do with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new tax-cut ardor. Whatever the motivation or circumstance, his recent pledge to make lower taxes the centerpiece of his 2014 State of the State address was welcome news.
Anyone puzzled about why that’s so should take a look at the Tax Foundation’s latest State Business Tax Climate Index, released only days after Mr. Cuomo announced his new push. The 2014 index report shows New York dead last in terms of overall tax competitiveness. The burden here is particularly high for income taxes and property taxes.
While Mr. Cuomo has worked hard to build a reputation as a fiscal conservative, his record on taxes is mixed. On the one hand, he led the effort to secure a long-sought property tax cap; on the other, he presided over the extension of some tax hikes-including the so-called millionaire’s tax-that were slated to expire.
So a certain amount of skepticism about Mr. Cuomo’s new embrace of tax cuts is to be expected. In addition, he did himself no favor by naming a new commission to advise him while awaiting recommendations from another panel created months ago.
But we’re pretty confident that former Republican Gov. George Pataki would not have agreed to be co-chairman of the new commission if he thought Mr. Cuomo was less than sincere.
It’s a savvy political move, of course. While no one at this point would bet against Mr. Cuomo’s re-election next year, his popularity has slid from its previous highs. And the need for more action to reduce taxes is felt deeply, especially in Upstate New York.
In a recent RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll, 92 percent of respondents said further tax reduction is important to reviving the upstate economy. The poll participants also sent a strong message that to spur job creation, tax cuts should be broad-based. Too often, New York has chosen tax breaks that benefit select groups of taxpayers.
Going forward, the goal should be clear: Simplify the state’s tax code and reduce rates broadly. Maybe 2014 will be the year it actually happens.

10/18/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.



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