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Gov. Andrew Cuomo went into full spin mode on Monday as he tried to shift the blame for New Yorkers’ high tax bills — and said he’d resume in-person news conferences only after the coronavirus pandemic is under control.
During a video appearance from his New York City Office, Cuomo signed a state budget bill that will raise taxes on high earners and large corporations by a total of $4.3 billion, while calling for federal relief that President Biden appears unlikely to deliver.
Cuomo said that taxes on New Yorkers would actually go down if federal lawmakers repeal the $10,000 cap for deducting state and local taxes, known as SALT.
“Repealing SALT would lower the effective tax rate on the state’s top earners by 37 percent,” he said. “The state’s new, top 10.9 percent tax rate becomes an effective 6.9 percent tax rate.”
But the Biden administration has been cool to the idea. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week that it could add “potentially significant” costs to the bill by allowing residents of high-tax states like New York to deduct the full cost of their state and local taxes when they pay federal taxes.
And the push has even caused rifts within Cuomo’s Democratic Party as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came out swinging against full repeal of the cap in the infrastructure bill, calling it a “giveaway to the rich.”
Cuomo Monday also tried to minimize the tax hikes — which critics warn will cause an exodus from the Empire State — by blaming suburban officials north of the city and on Long Island for imposing property taxes that are “among the highest in the nation.”
“The average middle-class taxpayer pays more in property taxes than income taxes,” he said. “The problem is property taxes.”
During a later question-and-answer session with five, pre-selected reporters, Cuomo was asked when he would resume the in-person briefings that he canceled in December, amid growing controversy over nursing home deaths from COVID-19.
At the time, Cuomo said he was following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after having gone maskless during numerous appearances amid the pandemic’s devastating first wave.
“When will reporters get back in the room? That’s a product of COVID safety requirements,” he said Monday.
“When we get back to normal with COVID, we get back to normal with press conferences.”
Cuomo — who’s been able to avoid tough questions by having his aides choose which reporters get called upon — also claimed that as many as 200 reporters were able to participate in his virtual briefings.
“Frankly, we can never get 200 reporters in any room inside, so this actually is an effective medium,” he said.
Earlier, Cuomo called limiting the SALT deduction — part of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts — “a partisan political attack on this state.”
Cuomo also said restoring the full deduction would be worth a total of $12.3 billion to New Yorkers and “help our economy recover” from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
At one point, Cuomo displayed photos of members of New York’s congressional delegation along with quotes in which they railed against the SALT cap.
They included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), both of whom have called on Cuomo to resign over sexual harassment allegations.
“I understand a little about politics. But it’s still about results, at the end of the day,” he said.
“These leaders must deliver. They must deliver now.”