It’s Time For New York To Balance Its Checkbook

New York has a revenue problem exacerbated by the federal cap on State and Local Tax deductions that were part of President Donald Trump’s 2018 tax reform legislation.

That revenue problem is made worse by the state’s longstanding spending problem.

State tax receipts look to be about $2.3 billion less than anticipated, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Thomas DiNapoli, state comptroller. It should come as no surprise that capping the amount of taxes that can be deducted on a tax return has caused some of the state’s top earners to look for a new home with lower state and local taxes. As the governor said earlier this week, the taxpayers most affected by the SALT change are educated, financial people by definition who are making informed decisions.

The revenue problem created by the SALT deduction change wouldn’t be quite as jarring if New York also didn’t have a massive spending problem that has been paid for largely by the top 1 percent of wage earners. New York’s progressive tax system means the state’s top earners subsidize the state’s bloated spending by paying more taxes than the rest of us. The rich dealt with the high-tax, high-spend state in which they used to live because at least they could deduct the high taxes and receive a benefit on their yearly tax return. Capping the SALT deduction put the rich in the same boat as the rest of us — it is better financially for them to leave the state.

It is easier for state officials to glower toward Washington, D.C., and shake their fist over the SALT deduction cap. What has the state done to ensure taxes came in under the deductability cap? Not a heck of a lot. The issue became politicized rather than being dealt with as any household would handle a similar situation — cut spending. The state can’t control what the federal government does, but state government has total control over the state’s checkbook. Cuomo has been jumping up and down about the SALT deduction and its potential to cost New York money for roughly a year now, yet he still built a budget last year that spent money as if nothing had changed. Then, he proposed spending even more in this year’s proposed budget. The only thing Cuomo has done is create a scapegoat when the long-necessary spending cuts finally come — President Trump and the Republican Party.

The state’s largest costs are education, health care, infrastructure projects and the middle class tax cut. Either the state increases its revenues — say goodbye to the middle class tax cut the governor has touted– or finds cuts in education, health care, infrastructure spending or some of his more progressive programs like tax subsidies or state spending on wind energy projects included as part of the state’s Green New Deal proposal.

The state’s budget problem is no longer about politics. It’s about balancing the checkbook. It’s time to cut spending.