E.J. McMahon

Founding Senior Fellow

Edmund J. McMahon is the Empire Center’s founding senior fellow.

McMahon’s writing and research focuses on improving New York’s economic competitiveness and promoting greater transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility in state and local government. He has authored or co-authored major studies on public pension reform, collective bargaining, population migration, budget trends and tax policy in New York. His influential “Blueprint for a Better Budget,” published in January 2010, featured a number of recommendations subsequently implemented under Governors David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo. McMahon also was a leading advocate of an across-the-board cap on property taxes in New York before it was enacted at Governor Cuomo’s initiative in 2011.

McMahon has published numerous articles and essays in publications including the Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesBarron’s, the Public Interest, the New York Post, the New York Daily NewsNewsday and the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. His frequent radio and TV interviews have included appearances on CNBC, Fox News Channel and Bloomberg News, as well as on regional cable and broadcast outlets throughout New York State.

McMahon’s professional background includes nearly 30 years as an Albany-based analyst and close observer of New York State government. As chief fiscal advisor to the Assembly Republican Conference in the early 1990s, he drafted a personal income tax reform plan that would become the basis for historic tax cuts enacted under Governor George E. Pataki. Previously, as research director of the Public Policy Institute, he worked on the Institute’s counter-budget proposals and developed the template for New York’s school report cards. He also served as a deputy commissioner in the state Department of Taxation and Finance and as a vice chancellor of the State University of New York.

McMahon is also an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, which he joined in June 2000. In January 2005, he opened the Institute’s Albany-based Empire Center project, which became an independent nonprofit think tank in 2013. He was the Empire Center’s founding president and became research director in the fall of 2016.

Earlier in his career, he was a staff writer and columnist for the Albany Times Union and The Knickerbocker News.

McMahon is a graduate of Villanova University.

Latest Work

Does the massive tax loss claimed by Donald J. Trump 20 years ago point to some sort of loophole for the wealthy in New York State's current tax law? That's the implication of Jim Dwyer's column in today's New York Times. But Dwyer reads too much into some data from the city's Independent Budget Office. Read More

New York ranks 49th out of 50 states in the Tax Foundation's 2017 State Business Tax Climate Index, released today. (New Jersey seems permanently mired in last place, so we've got that going for us, which is nice.) The Empire State's overall ranking on the widely noticed index is unchanged from last year, has ranged between 48th and 50th for a decade now, and has been 49 for most of Governor Andrew Cuomo's tenure. Read More

Earlier this month, Gov. Cuomo paid a visit to the centerpiece of his upstate economic development strategy: a massive, still unfinished “gigafactory” taxpayers spent $750 million to build and equip for SolarCity, a money-losing company with a foggy future. “This is the economy of tomorrow,” the governor gushed, according to a Buffalo News account. “It’s such a metaphor — a symbol of everything we’re doing.” Indeed. But rather than symbolizing a shiny high-tech future, the solar-panel factory could become a monument to what US Attorney Preet Bharara described as “pervasive corruption and fraud” allegedly infecting Cuomo’s signature economic development programs. Read More

The latest federal estimates of the 2014-15 change in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by metropolitan area provide a fresh perspective on upstate New York's persistent economic weakness. With a real (inflation-adjusted) GDP gain of 2 percent—good enough to rank 154 out of the nation's 382 largest metros—Albany-Schenectady-Troy was upstate New York's fastest-growing area last year, according to preliminary estimates from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The average GDP growth for all U.S. metro areas was 2.5 percent. Read More

New York's preliminary employment numbers August were a near-repeat of July: private-sector job creation in the Empire State trailed the national average, with nearly all the net gains concentrated in New York City and its surrounding suburbs. Read More

The recent announcement that Dick’s Sporting Goods will build a 650,000-square-foot distribution center in Binghamton has been cited by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as further evidence of an economic resurgence in the region. “Five years ago, we had a 7.9 percent unemployment rate in the Southern Tier,” Cuomo said. “Today, 4.6 percent. The arrows are headed in the right direction.” In fact, as shown in the state Labor Department’s household survey data, the unemployment rate dropped only because fewer residents of the region are available and looking for work. If the labor force were still at its 2010 level, the unemployment rate would be 13 percent. Read More

Republicans never held more than 58 of the 150 seats in New York State Assembly during Clarence D. “Rapp” Rappleyea’s 12 years as their minority leader. Yet Rappleyea, who died Sunday at age 82, was among the most consequential New York State legislative leaders of the 20th century. Read More

Governor Cuomo frequently asserts that "the arrows are pointed in the right direction" for the upstate New York economy, thanks to state policy changes under his leadership. But approaching the sixth Labor Day of Cuomo's tenure, the latest job statistics continued to tell a different story. Read More