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December 11, 2012


Cuomo’s tax panel emerges

E.J. McMahon

Governor Andrew Cuomo today finally got around to announcing most of the members of the “Tax Reform and Fairness Commission,” which he first promised to create a year ago as part of the legislative deal that temporarily extended the state’s income tax hike on million-dollar earners.

The list of commission members is headed by former state Comptroller Carl McCall, the Cuomo-appointed chairman of the State University of New York board, and includes two other current Cuomo administration members, Tax Commissioner Thomas H. Mattox and J. Patrick Barrett, chairman of the Olympic Regional Development Authority.

It also includes former Tax Commissioner James Wetzler and former Budget Director Dall Forsythe, both of whom served under Governor Mario Cuomo, along with two prominent investment bankers, Peter J. Solomon and Alan D. Schwartz, and two prominent commercial bankers, Robert G. Wilmers and Deborah Wright. Finally, in the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others slot, there is James Parrott.  He’s deputy director and economist for the union-backed Fiscal Policy Institute, which for years has been churning out research fodder in support of raising the state’s income tax rate much, much higher.

So, now that we know who the commission consists of, when will it be meeting or issuing a report? The press release doesn’t say.  We do know the commission is still four members short of the 13 announced a year ago, six of whom were to be appointed by the Legislature (two by each majority leader and one by each minority leader). It’s not clear which of the members announced today were appointed by whom.  The December 2011 spoke of the governor appointing a commission chair, but the commission announced today identifies McCall and Solomon as co-chairs.

The mission of the tax panel is also amorphous. The lead of the press release says the commission “is charged with addressing long term changes to the state tax system and helping create economic growth.” A quote attributed to the governor says it will “undertake a broader review of the state’s complex tax code to find ways to make it simpler, and more fair, and help reduce the tax burden faced by New Yorkers and businesses.” And the last paragraph says the commission “will conduct a comprehensive and objective review of the State’s taxation policy, including corporate, sales and personal income taxation and make revenue-neutral policy recommendations to improve the current tax system.”

Um, “revenue neutral” on what revenue base — permanent law or the temporary law enacted a year ago, which is set to expire at the end of 2014?  If it’s the latter, the commission will have to find a way to “create economic growth” and “reduce the tax burden faced by New Yorkers and businesses” while making (more) permanent last year’s net $2 billion tax hike.

That will be a neat trick, especially after President Obama and Congress get around to agreeing on the precise extent to which they will raise federal tax rates on high-income households while also capping the deduction for state and local taxes paid by those same households. Today’s press release makes no mention of impending federal tax changes–continuing the governor’s perfect record of ignoring the significant implications of that issue.

More background here.

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