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August 20, 2019

Cuomo fights back with a sound, smart budget

January 17, 2018

Gov. Cuomo, who over two terms has waged noble warfare to rein in what had been runaway spending by both Democrats and Republicans, presents an eighth budget with a big-deal topline number: 1.9% growth in year-to-year spending, still below the magic goal of 2% that he set back in 2011.

This year, though, government in Albany is under assault from the pesky city four hours to the south, to which we New Yorkers already send billions more than we ever see back.

The two barrels of the shotgun used in this daylight robbery are a tax overhaul that punishes high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California by limiting deductibility of state and local taxes, and a federal budget that’s sure to slash spending on which the biggest states and cities rely.

Cuomo aims to cushion the blows by exploring changes in the state tax code, such as switching the New York income tax to a payroll tax, where the employer could deduct the full amount.

We hope it can work, but it’ll ultimately fall to inept sausage-makers in Albany to agree on something that withstands legal scrutiny without producing perverse economic side effects. Don’t bet on them.

A further stretch, though still worth exploring, is Cuomo’s suggestion of setting up allied non-profits to local school districts, police departments and the like to let people make “contributions” that would serve as a tax payment. Those charitable gifts would remain fully deductible.

You can’t blame the feds for seeing that as a transparent end-run around a duly passed law. Courts may have their own concerns. But when billions in annual revenue is at stake — and federal reforms could trigger a downward spiral in the budget and cascading exodus out of New York — it’s worth a shot.

The state, after all, needs resources to keep its own house in order. One especially urgent New York concern is saving the subway.

Cuomo gets credit for walling off the MTA’s payroll tax, which generates $1.6 billion annually, from sticky Albany fingers, and funneling that cash directly into the agency.

And, with full details due in a few days, we’re soon to see a comprehensive plan to charge drivers who choose to enter the busiest parts of Manhattan during the busiest times of day and using the revenue for transit.

In all, a very solid opening by Cuomo.

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