Gov. Cuomo: State will sue to block federal tax overhaul
By David Klepper / Chris Carola
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) New York state will take Washington to court to challenge the new Republican tax overhaul, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, calling the new law an unconstitutional assault on states’ rights and New York in particular.
The lawsuit is one of several ways Cuomo, a potential 2020 presidential contender, is positioning New York to lead the opposition to President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans. He’s also calling for the state to push back on federal attempts to curb environmental protections, immigration and health care spending.
“Our federal government is working to roll back so much of what we have done,” he said in his annual state of the state address to lawmakers in Albany. “We cannot, we must not let those things happen.”
The new tax law caps a deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000, a move that will increase federal tax liabilities for many homeowners in high-tax states like New York. Cuomo says the change could increase tax liabilities for some New Yorkers by as much as 25 percent, potentially prompting an exodus to cheaper states and making the state less competitive economically.
While many top Republicans in New York object to the provision too, Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan was skeptical about Cuomo’s plans for a lawsuit.
“I don’t see a legal basis,” he told reporters, adding that Cuomo is too focused on policies coming out of Washington instead of improving the state’s own business climate.
While Democrats in other states have mentioned potential legal action, New York would be the first state to take such aggressive action, potentially elevating Cuomo’s statute as a leading progressive voice against Trump.
“This is a smart and important move by the governor and his administration,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who has often feuded with Cuomo. De Blasio said some 600,000 New York City residents will see their taxes go up an average of $5,000 a year under the changes.
Cuomo also announced plans to sue opioid manufacturers for allegedly violating rules on the monitoring and reporting of suspicious drug shipments. He said any money obtained from the legal action would go toward efforts to fight the scourge of addiction.
“They pumped these pills into society and they created addictions,” Cuomo said. “Like the tobacco industry they killed thousands… We will make them pay.”
New York faces a $4 billion deficit and must also absorb $2 billion in recent federal health care cuts. Perhaps as a result, this year’s agenda from Cuomo is relatively light on expensive, ambitious programs. Instead, the governor proposed several measures prompted by recent news, including a new, uniform sexual harassment policy for state and local governments.
Cuomo is also calling for new disclosure rules for online political ads and investments in water quality and renewable energy. Another proposal would allow voters to cast a ballot up to 12 days before election day.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the voting changes sought by Cuomo would “make the ballot more accessible to busy New Yorkers, so that work, school, and daily commitments aren’t barriers to participation.”
Many of the governor’s new proposals are aimed squarely at Washington, and a federal government that he says is seeking to set back progress in New York when it comes to the economy, equality, health care and the environment. Cuomo cited recent accomplishments such as a higher minimum wage, free college tuition and paid family leave as an alternative to the policies emerging on the national level.
Cuomo mentioned Trump by name only once, while discussing how diversity has benefited New York. Cuomo noted that the flag in the Oval Office bears the words “e pluribus unum” or “out of many, one.”
“To find the way forward, the president only needs to turn around,” he said.
Lawmakers began their 2018 session earlier in the day Wednesday. In addition to Cuomo’s ideas, they’re expected to consider several other high profile measures, including bills to authorize physician-assisted suicide.
Cuomo says he’s also looking at changes to the state tax code in response to the federal overhaul. Details won’t be released until he unveils his state budget proposal later this month.