Governor Andrew Cuomo’s riposte to Senator Mitch McConnell over the question of a bailout for New York has got to be one of the all-time classics of Democratic Party thinking. The governor, at one of his briefings, lit into the Senate majority leader over his suggestion that states that have mismanaged their budgets should consider bankruptcy. Mr. Cuomo boasted that New York pays more money to Washington than any other state. “Just give me my money back,” he exclaimed.

That took some kind of brass, let us just say, and Mr. McConnell ought to call him on the point. It may be true that New York State delivers more money to Washington in terms of taxes than any other state. Mr. Cuomo made merry, too, with the fact that Mr. McConnell’s home state, Kentucky, is the third biggest taker from the federal till. There’s a larger point that needs to be made, though: The tax money flowing to Washington from New York is not Andrew Cuomo’s money.

Nor is the moola New York State’s money. It’s a shocking mis-statement for the governor of New York to say, “give me my money back.” It never belonged to New York State. Didn’t it go to Washington, its rightful place would be back in the wallets of the working men and women, business persons, and corporations who earned it. That’s whose money it is — or was — until the politicians got their hands on it. It would be wrong for anyone to give it to either New York State or Mr. Cuomo.

We like the way it was put to us in a telegram today from E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center, heroic watcher of New York’s fisc. He notes that, in 2015, Long Island residents alone sent more tax money to Washington than did, say, Tennessee or Wisconsin. “What we’re talking about is the flow of income generated by people who happen to live in New York,” Mr. McMahon marks, “not money sent to Washington in some free-will offering from Albany.”

The latest gross numbers are in a January 2020 report of the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli. He reckons that in the 2018 Federal Fiscal Year, “New York State” — by which he meant New York individuals and companies — “generated an estimated $26.6 billion more in federal taxes than it received in federal spending.” Says the comptroller: “For every tax dollar paid [by, again, New Yorkers] to Washington, our State received 90 cents in return — well below the national average of $1.21.”

It was Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Mr. McMahon reminds us, who started, in a regular report called “The Fisc,” making an issue of New York’s balance of payments with Washington. A decade ago, Mr. McMahon himself issued in the Wall Street Journal an op-ed piece on the issue. It ran under the headline “Pat Moynihan’s Tax Lessons for the States.” The subheadline said: “Anything that grows the size of the Federal government will grow the deficit of New York.”

This has never been brought to such a crisis as it has during the current pandemic, even if the underlying cause isn’t the coronavirus. The horrible truth for Mr. Cuomo is that if too much money is flowing to Washington from New Yorkers’ earnings, the logical remedy is not distributing more money to Mr. Cuomo’s state government. Rather it’s lowering the federal taxes that New Yorkers have to pay. What a platform for Mr. Cuomo in 2024, if not sooner.

© 2020 New York Sun

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Empire Center for Public Policy
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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.