Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sounding pretty satisfied with the progress of the Tappan Zee Bridge project. The project, he said, is proceeding “better than I expected it would have gone,” and called the progress “kind of remarkable” in a call Friday morning, just before the Memorial Day weekend.
A more pressing issue for the governor, though, was his Tax-Free SUNY program, which promotes business growth on state college campuses by offering a 100 percent tax-free deal — no property taxes, no corporate taxes, no sales taxes and no income taxes for workers — to qualifying businesses. The plan is especially geared to upstate, where the economy lags behind the rest of the state and much of the nation. Cuomo’s plan, announced this week and pushed heavily by the governor, has received criticism from various quarters. The Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon blasted the proposal in a NYTorch blog post:
In the final analysis, highly touted “economic development” programs built on a promise of significant tax relief ultimately beg the same question: if our taxes are such a hindrance to growth, why not reduce them for everyone?
Here’s what Cuomo said to that particular criticism:
In a perfect, world, you’d have no tax. But this isn’t a perfect world. … We have cut taxes, and will continue (to cut taxes) for every New Yorker.
He said the alternative isn’t to offer nothing and no business growth. The governor pointed out that when more jobs are created, even absent paying various taxes, that lifts the local economy. New jobs will mean new residents with income that invigorates the real estate market, helps local shops, and so on. “If we create more jobs … we help everyone,” Cuomo said.
According to Cuomo, 75 percent of new high-tech startups move from the state within a year. “Investors come in and (say) ‘we’re going to move you to Florida, we’re going to move you to Texas,’” the governor said, because of New York’s high tax burden.
Cuomo also insisted that his SUNY Tax-Free plan doesn’t cost money. “because the jobs wouldn’t have existed anyway.” He added: “We’ve tried everything else … we are hemorrhaging people and businesses (upstate).”
We also discussed concerns about New York’s Health Benefit Exchange, the marketplace for purchasing health insurance to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. The state will open up the exchange Oct. 1, and residents can purchase policies Jan. 1, 2014. There’s still plenty of confusion among the general public about the ACA and the exchanges. Cuomo acknowledged that, and called the “massive” federal health overhaul an “ambitious undertaking” but “necessary undertaking” that will be “disruptive.”
I pointed out that insurance coverage costs seem to vary widely, even though the goal of ACA and the health exchanges is lowering costs for all people. Cuomo said of the federal health-care law and New York’s Health Benefit Exchange: “I believe, ultimately, it will achieve its ends.”
Above: Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (AP File Photo/Mike Groll)