pretzel-6519637

“The first casualty of war is always the truth,” Winston Churchill observed. The same might be said of political battles. Around New York in this campaign season, incumbent state legislators in both parties have been bending facts into pretzels when they discuss their recent records on state taxes, in particular.

Consider, for example, some recent assertions by one of the Assembly’s most senior members, Sandra Galef, an Ossining Democrat now seeking her eleventh two-year term in the Legislature. In a televised debate with her Republican opponent, Kim Izzarelli, Ms. Galef said:

“We’ve had a very good bipartisan effort in Albany to make some changes and this year I’d say we did a lot of good things. We started out by lowering the tax rate for individuals within our state.  This is the first time we’ve ever done it in 58 years.”

The assemblywoman said much the same thing in an Oct. 2 debate: “We have lowered the state income tax for the first time in 58 years. It’s going to help all of us and it’s going to drive people to New York State.”

In fact, the state’s personal income taxes had already been reduced at least a half-dozen times between 1977 and last December, when the Legislature and Governor Cuomo agreed to a temporary package of tax changes. That misnamed “reform” measure combined the extension of a large tax increase for million-dollar earners with token (and, again, temporary) reductions in marginal rates for those earning taxable incomes of $40,000 to $300,000. And those reductions were, proportionately, among the smallest state income tax cuts to have been enacted in the last 35 years. As Ms. Izzarelli noted, for a typical household in the Assembly district, the tax cut will amount to a measly $60 a year, or a little more than a dollar a week. By contrast, the most significant middle-class income tax relief approved in Albany since the late 1970s was initiated early in the 12-year (1995-2006) gubernatorial tenure of Ms. Galef’s Republican predecessor in the Peekskill-area Assembly seat, George Pataki (with Ms. Galef’s support, by the way).

The assemblywoman also engaged in some heavy historical revisionism on another key issue: local mandate relief. Ms. Izzarelli said she favored repealing the Triborough amendment, which requires payment of “step” increases in salaries even after contracts expire, to help local governments reduce their costs. In reply, Ms. Galef indicated (without flatly saying as much) that she didn’t favor changing the law. Parroting a favorite contention of the state teachers’ union, the assemblywoman said the amendment was needed to avoid strikes:

“Because of the Triborough amendment [to] the Taylor Law, that’s when we said to the unions, way back in the 60s … that we don’t want you to strike, so we’re going to give you this amendment so that you don’t strike.”

Wrong. As documented here, Triborough was not part of the original 1967 Taylor Law but was enacted in 1982, mainly at the behest of the teachers’ union, over the strenuous objections of school boards and municipal governments, and against the advice of then-Governor Carey’s own Budget Division. It was not a quid pro quo for the formal statutory prohibition on public-sector strikes in New York, which actually pre-dated the Taylor Law by decades.

Ms. Galef is far from alone among incumbent lawmakers in making inaccurate or misleading statements about taxes*, or labor mandates.  But voters should remember that, like pretzels, political rhetoric is best taken with some large grains of salt.

* Running for-re-election in the same region, Republican state Sen. Greg Ball has touted his support for “a real middle-class tax cut, bringing it to the lowest point in three generations” and has separately claimed (in writing, no less) that “we enacted a $3.3 billion middle class tax cut, saving taxpayers $4.4 billion dollars and bringing the middle class tax rates to the lowest level in 58 years” — which is also untrue.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

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

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

Sales Tax Receipts Surge Statewide, Filling Local Government Coffers

Local governments across every region of the state raked in robust sales tax collections during the three months that ended on June 30th Read More

Remote Threat 

Remote work and a more mobile professional class will increase the speed and scope of New York's ongoing out migration. Read More

Tax hike and huge spending increase seem likely in next NY budget

New York state today began its 2022 fiscal year without an adopted budget—which, in itself, is not a big deal. The state government can continue to pay bills and employee salaries next week if either final appropriations Read More

DiNapoli Predicts $3.8B More in State Tax Receipts

New York State's tax receipts in the current fiscal year will exceed Governor Cuomo's latest projections by $3.8 billion—still down from last year, but a big improvement over the governor's worst-case scenario—according to updated estimates from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office. Read More

With Hopes Dashed for “Blue Wave” Bailout, Cuomo Needs to Deal With Budget Shortfall

With the national election results still unclear, Governor Cuomo can no longer put off tough decisions on how to balance New York's pandemic-ravaged state budget. Read More

For State Lawmakers, Secrecy May Pay

New York state legislators may get a raise on January 1, 2021—but the people who elect them may not get to find out before voting ends next week. Read More

In Pandemic Recovery, New York’s Tax Base Is More Fragile Than Ever

New York's exceptionally wealthy state tax base is also exceptionally fragile, due to its heavy dependence on the highly volatile (and portable) investment-driven incomes of Wall Street workers and fund managers. Read More

Not a Moment Too Soon, Bill de Blasio Is Setting a Good Fiscal Example

After months of flailing, floundering and stalling on desperately needed cuts to New York City's pandemic-ravaged budget, Mayor de Blasio just made a smart and appropriate move to save money—in the process defying one of New York's most powerful government employee unions. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

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.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!