Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to spend $340 million in budget windfall cash on a temporary state tax rebate of Thruway tolls is “an indefensible gimmick,” E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center, testified today at a Joint Legislative Budget Hearing in Albany.

“This proposal does not deserve support in any corner of New York, upstate or down,” McMahon said, calling the Thruway toll credit—which would cost about $113 million a year in each of three years starting in 2017—“a waste of money that could be far better spent on actual capital purposes.”

McMahon posed the rhetorical question: “If the toll credit is a solution, what is the problem?” He said that Thruway tolls per-passenger mile are below the levels in neighboring states, and said the money would be better spent to repair existing roads and bridges.

Lawmakers also should address the “unfinished business” of fixing New York’s estate tax, which was reformed two years ago to spare hundreds of thousands of smaller estates from taxation. McMahon said the New York estate tax still featured a “tax cliff” that can subject some estates to a 164 percent marginal tax rate if their value falls within a narrow range just above the tax threshold.

McMahon also discussed Cuomo’s proposed tax cuts for small business, saying they were “modest” in size and would not in any case offset the increased costs of a mandatory $15 minimum wage.

“There is no conceivable tax cut,” McMahon told lawmakers, “that would offset or make up for the negative impacts of the $15 minimum wage.”

McMahon’s entire testimony can be read here.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and do business.

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