The Cuomo tax conundrum

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The answer to the question “Who wants to be a millionaire?” has always been an easy one. Of course, everyone does.

But does everyone want to be taxed like one? Of course not. Especially if you’re a “millionaire” who actually makes $200,000 a year.

But thanks to a new tax deal from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Albany leadership, that’s all changing.

If you make less than $300,000, you get a tax cut. If you make more than $2 million filing jointly, you get a tax hike. And that MTA payroll tax that infuriated so many businesses will be reduced. Very nice. Very tidy. Everyone wins, right? Well, there was that issue of a campaign promise.

Up to this point, Cuomo has been adamant about raising taxes.

“The competitiveness of this state is hurt when you’re one of the highest tax states in the nation and businesses are mobile like never before, “ said the governor. “I also believe the point is all but inarguable.”

A nice Cuomo flourish at the end — the kind of words you wish you never added when you have to eat them later.

He also said things like this: “No new taxes! No new taxes! No new taxes!” Three times no less. It kind of has a “read my lips” ring to it.

Cuomo garnered much support from editorial boards and center-right independents who were impressed with his new fiscal discipline.

The no-new taxes approach was also the perfect stand against a legislature labeled as dysfunctional and seen as fixated on out-of-control spending. Cuomo’s tactic forced the legislature — with no new revenues — to cut spending as the only alternative.

It worked. The legialature was rolled, and the governor got his balanced budget while keeping his tax promise.

Why would Cuomo take a “red” approach to a “blue” state? The logic is that he has long-term ambitions. A liberal like Cuomo needs a conservative plank in his platform, and what better way than going conservative on taxes?

But there have been winds of change in the air. The Occupy Wall Street movement has triggered a restlessness on the left. Democrats and unions began pressuring the governor about “fairness.”

So Cuomo sells his new tax plan on the basis of having a “fair” tax code, suggesting the one we have now is not fair.

Politically, the plan is a definite winner in the short term. There are only so many voters making more than a $1 million a year. The unions who may have had their doubts about the fiscal-hawk governor can be reassured. And Senate Republicans can be happy with the break in the MTA payroll tax.

But does the deal foretell long-term trouble? For one, can the governor still exact discipline from a legislature that loves to spend?

And is the governor’s plan to bring casino gambling to the state just another signal to legislators to “let the spending begin?”

And then there is the theory that the millionaires making all that money might head off and move to Connecticut.

One thing Cuomo still does well: duck. He announced his agreement not in a press conference, but by releasing a pretaped video.

Later he went to his birthday party/fundraiser on the Intrepid. No press allowed. The only way to get a question was to donate up to $2,500 at the door.

And that is not tax deductible!