Senate Republicans today issued what they called a “comprehensive plan” to create jobs — although all they’ve really put on the table (in a form readily accessible to the public, at any rate) is a press release summary of initiatives.  The release says the Senate will pass the legislation as soon as next week.  No bill numbers, bill copy or legislative memos are posted with the release at the Senate website, although the tax cuts in the plan were passed in March as part of the Senate’s one-house budget resolutions, and some of these cats and dogs are said to be popping up on committee agendas.

UPDATE: Actually, on closer inspection, the release does cite numbers for two of the bills it summarizes.  The Senate subsequently provided the missing link in the release — confirming that the omnibus package has been introduced as S.7448.

For years now, the Senate GOP’s approach to economic growth has been to cook up big pot of targeted tax relief, and then fling the whole one-house package onto the agenda for passage so incumbents can campaign on it.  Job creation?  We’ve got it covered!

The latest Senate plan is basically more of the same — at least $1.1 billion in tax and fee reductions, including elimination of income taxes on manufacturers (which at least affects an entire sector) and an accelerated phase-out of the 18a energy assessment imposed under Governor Paterson in 2009 (which affects everyone).   Republicans also are proposing to repeal the annual notification provisions of the costly and onerous “Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2010″; indeed, they already passed the repeal bill.

A few other items on the list can most kindly be described as unobjectionable.  At least one, the proposed expansion of the film production credit, would simply inflate an already egregious tax give-away to an over-indulged industry.

Next year’s budget gap is about $1 billion, growing to over $3 billion by fiscal 2014-15.  It’s unclear how (or whether) the Senate would pay for its goodies.

The package does include a statutory 2 percent cap on state spending. However, the Senate press release doesn’t explain which category of spending (all funds, state funds, state operating funds, or general fund) will be capped, or how end-runs or loopholes would be prevented by a law that could easily be “notwithstood” in a pinch.  For example, does the cap include the Health Care Reform Act (HCRA) account?  Has anyone in the Senate has devoted more than cursory thought to this?  You wouldn’t know it from what has been made available so far. initially.

The state spending cap is coupled with a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds supermajority to approve tax increases.  That’s a straightforward reform on the face of it.  It’s also a cheap way for Senate Republicans to posture as tax hike opponents just months after they unanimously voted for the state’s latest big tax hike.

Restraining spending and making it harder to increase taxes are laudable aims.  But how does the Senate intend to square this with its perennial pursuit of higher school aid, in particular?   If Republicans accept the roughly 4 percent “cap” on school aid growth now assumed by Governor Cuomo, everything else in the budget will have to be held well below 2 percent.  (UPDATE: To be fair, they did it this year.)

If Republicans are willing to restrain the growth in aid to public schools–easily the largest state-funded category of the budget—then they also should propose some meaningful mandate reforms to help local schools cope with it.

Indeed, if the Senate Republicans truly believe, in the words of Majority Leader Dean Skelos, that “the timing is right to reduce taxes for job creation,” they should start working on a plan for long-range, broad-based tax reform, including repeal of the temporary millionaire tax increase they were instrumental in passing last December.

Meanwhile, the one truly significant thing Skelos has done this year to promote the creation of jobs is to oppose Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s stepped-up push to destroy jobs throughan increase in the minimum wage.

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About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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