The Daily Star
---- — “Taxes” is something of a dirty word in politics. Certainly no one wants to talk about raising them. But cutting them is certainly easier said than done.
Candidates for state offices have been making much of the fact that New York was recently ranked 50th in the national Tax Foundation’s list of business-friendly states. This comes on the heels of another last-place ranking — this one from cable news channel CNBC, which criticized the Empire State’s onerous business regulations.
Yes, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “NY Open for Business” campaign, the state is still taking it on the chin from the rest of the nation when it comes to attracting business.
“They do soak us for a lot of taxes,” Cooperstown Motel owner Al O’Brien said of the state.
In addition, the necessary paperwork for workers compensation, disability, state and federal withholding and social security taxes can require 50-75 hours a week, O’Brien said.
Candidates on both sides of the political divide are trotting out New York’s dismal ranking as a way of talking about how they would fix everything. Incumbents use it as an opportunity to talk about how the other party held up all their great ideas; or, they talk about the pork they managed to bring home to their home district during their last term. Challengers can always say that the unfriendly climate developed on their opponent’s watch.
But does anyone really know how to fix the problem?
The thing about taxes is, they pay for things. A lot of these things are really important, like roads and bridges and schools. Salaries, health care and pensions for New York’s 200,000-plus employees chew up a lot of money, as does the state’s share of the federal Medicaid program. If you let businesses pay less in taxes, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have less money coming in — which is, unfortunately, what’s happening already, and why the state is so strapped for cash.
So it’s no wonder that, when confronted with the question of what to cut, many politicians veer to one side of the question and start talking instead about cutting unfunded mandates. If we could just relieve businesses from some of these burdensome regulations, they say, things would be better.
But here again, specifics are often lacking. Doing away with unfunded mandates could be a good thing — or it could be an awful idea. It really depends on which “mandates” we’re talking about.
It will take more than lip service or catchy slogans to make New York a business-friendly state. It will take some hard decisions — including some that may not be politically popular. We wonder if any of today’s candidates have the stomach for that sort of work.