Taking aim at the federal government, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo slammed President Donald Trump’s administration, even if he only mentioned the Republican firebrand by name once during his annual State of the State address last week.
During his wide ranging and never-ending speech last Wednesday, Cuomo, a Democrat, said the state plans to sue the federal government for its newly imposed tax law as unconstitutional, alleging that it’s the first federal double taxation in US history, which violates states’ rights and equal protection.
The Republican tax overhaul, approved late last year, puts a cap of $10,000 on deductions of state and local income and property taxes, referred to as SALT, which has concerned New York officials across the political spectrum. 1
He called the federal government, controlled by the GOP in the executive and legislative branches, “the most hostile and aggressive toward New York in history.” He claimed the federal government is robbing the blue states to pay for the red states.
“It is an economic civil war and make no mistake, they are aiming to hurt us,” Cuomo said, arguing it will drive residents out of the state. “We believe it is illegal.”
Cuomo also revealed the state is putting together a plan to restructure its current income and payroll tax system in response to the new GOP tax law. A more concrete plan could be rolled out later this month.
Besides scorching the federal government, Cuomo listed a long list of progressive initiatives he’d like to pursue. At times, it appeared he was positioning himself for a presidential run in 2020.
He spoke about his desire to eliminate cash bail for low-level offenses, put abortion rights into the state constitution, improve access to voting and allow children of illegal immigrants to go to public colleges for free or receive financial aid.
He also proposed laws meant to combat sexual harassment and assault. Legislation he offered would stop taxpayer funds from being used to settle sexual assault and harassment complaints leveled against state officials. Additionally, Cuomo wants policies that would apply to all state and local governments in New York and implement a whistleblower process to help victims come forward. Sexual harassment cases would not be confidential unless the victim insists, Cuomo said.
Suing big pharmacy companies is another priority for Cuomo as a way to fight the drug scourge that’s crippled many parts of the state and led to thousands of overdose deaths.
Looking back at what he’s done, Cuomo touted “historic investments” in education, healthcare and economic development.
“State government is back,” Cuomo said.
In an interview, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef was pleased with much of what Cuomo addressed. Galef said she was happy Cuomo wants to have a statewide policy to tackle sexual harassment, which is legislation she has spearheaded.
Galef said it was important Cuomo proposed easier voter registration and a policy that would force political advertisements that appear on social media to identify who paid for them. Galef agreed that the federal government is targeting New York and supported legal action against the new tax plan. Changing tax policy within the state is also critical, she said.
“It really is double taxation,” Galef said of the new federal tax law.
State Senator Sue Serino said in statement that Cuomo listed many expensive initiatives, but didn’t explain how they would be paid for. She also wants Cuomo to touch on how to make the state more affordable, especially for seniors, and funding for Lyme and tick-borne diseases, which Serino, a Republican, has fought heavily for during her state tenure.
She wants to work with her colleagues to cut spending, increase government efficiency and invest in small businesses during legislative session.
“Too many people right now are being forced to choose between raising their thermostats to keep from freezing and putting food on the table, and that’s just not right,” Serino stated. “We need to deliver a more affordable New York to ensure our communities can thrive.”
State Assemblyman Kevin Byrne was critical of Cuomo’s attacks the federal government. He said New York’s tax structure has been regarded as one of the most “convoluted and complex in the nation.” He noted there is currently a $4 billion deficit and a 2017 comptroller report indicated New York is more than $60 billion in state funded debt.
“However, the governor continues to spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars each year through ‘backdoor borrowing’ on initiatives that have yet to deliver the economic growth and job creation results we were promised,” Byrne, a Republican, stated. “I hope that this year our state’s leadership will take much-needed steps to reestablish New York as an attractive destination for businesses and residents alike.”
State Senator Terrence Murphy, a Republican, said since he began as a state lawmaker three years ago, the senate has worked cooperatively with Cuomo in a “bipartisan way to deliver real results” for residents. But he said this latest speech struck a more partisan tone and was better suited for Washington DC.
He said there are important issues that need to be addressed including the closure of Indian Point in Northern Westchester, controlling the state’s spending and cutting property taxes.
“I am confident we can put aside our philosophical differences to work with the Governor and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address these critical issues and give everyone in New York the opportunity to succeed,” Murphy stated.