Cuomo Looks to Former Rivals to Head Tax Cutting Commission

Oct 3, 2013

Credit Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is appointing a new tax cutting commission that he’s charged with finding ways of slicing state revenues by $2 to $3 billion dollars next year.

Cuomo turned to the man who beat his father in the 1994 governor’s race, George Pataki, to co chair the commission. Pataki, a Republican, defeated Mario Cuomo  on a platform that included tax cuts.

Pataki, who says the state “spends too much and costs too much,” says he’s happy to serve on the commission, but at first thought a mistake had been made.

“I have to confess, when I got the call from Governor Cuomo, I wasn’t sure he had dialed the right number,” said Pataki, to laughter.

Cuomo praised Pataki, saying he was the right person for the job.

“We gave it to the best people imaginable,” Cuomo said of the appointments to the tax commission. “Representing different political parties, different political perspectives.”

The announcement, made in Westchester County, comes on the same week that Cuomo’s job performance reached below 50% for the first time since he’s taken office. A Siena poll found Cuomo’s approval rating at 49%.

“It is the weakest job performance he’s had since he’s been governor,” said Siena’s Steve Greenberg.

Most politicians consider a popularity rating below 50% to be troublesome when facing re election, although so far Cuomo has no announced opponent for the 2014 governor’s race.

The inclusion of Pataki, who remains popular, could help the governor win back upstate and more conservative voters, who have turned against Cuomo in recent months.

The other co chair of the tax commission is a popular figure in New York City, former State Comptroller Carl McCall. McCall would likely have defeated Andrew Cuomo in the 2002 governor’s race. McCall was  leading in the polls when Cuomo dropped out of the democratic primary race one week before voting day.

McCall, reading from a prepared text, praised Governor Cuomo, saying the state is in the best financial shape he’s seen in years.

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership New York has managed to turn the tide on its economic situation,” McCall said.

Cuomo compared his choosing of a bi partisan tax  cutting commission to the gridlock in Washington, where the government has been shut down since Tuesday.  Cuomo says in New York, during his term in office, the state has had the “exact opposite” experience.

“A situation like Washington, everybody loses, because literally you just don’t move forward,” Cuomo said.

Neither Cuomo, McCall, nor Pataki answered reporter’s questions afterward.

Cuomo’s tax commission was praised by business groups, as well as the leader of the state’s Republican party, who said it "was about time.”

Progressive groups, however, say they find the announcement “odd” and say the appointment of former Governor Pataki “flies in the face” of “a desire for progressive tax policy.”

The announcement can be seen as beginning of Governor Cuomo’s 2014 re election campaign. The governor says tax cuts will be the “centerpiece of the agenda for next year.”