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Cuomo And Opponents Differ On Reasons For Outmigration

The state’s high property taxes and New York’s outmigration problem were among the issues discussed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and his Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro this week, when both made separate visits to a meeting of the some of the state’s business leaders.

Molinaro spoke first Sept. 25th to the Business Council meeting on Lake George, where he unveiled a plan to reduce New York’s high property taxes by 30 percent. Molinaro says the state’s taxes, named by the conservative Tax Foundation as the 48th worst in America, are driving businesses and people out of the state. New York has lost one million people to outmigration during Cuomo’s two terms as governor.

“People are so desperate to get out of New York, they are dying sooner,” Molinaro said, citing a recent report that showed the average life expectancy of New Yorkers has grown shorter.

And he says school districts across the state are “shrinking dramatically.”  

Speaking to reporters afterward, Molinaro says Cuomo, and the governor’s predecessors, have all said they’d cut taxes in a meaningful way, and have failed to do so. 

“We’ve been promising this for generations,” Molinaro said. “And it’s time that we finally deliver meaningful property tax relief for New Yorkers.” 

Molinaro’s plan includes a state takeover of the $7.6 billion that counties pay for the Medicaid program, a cost born by property taxpayers.

“I’m tired of Albany pretending as if serving poor people isn’t their responsibility,” he said.

Molinaro was short on details, though, like how the state would pay for the Medicaid takeover. And while he said he’d control costs going forward, he did not name cuts that might have to happen. Molinaro, who was on the food stamp program as a child, says he’ll roll out more details on the plan soon.

Cuomo, who appeared at the business summit a day later, called Molinaro’s plan a “sham.”  

“Yeah great, and then where does the state get $7.6 billion?” Cuomo asked. “You either have to raise taxes on the state side, or you have to cut education.”

The governor, during his first term in office, enacted a property tax cap that limits the growth of local property taxes to 2 percent per year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.  

Cuomo raised some eyebrows, though, when he said the state’s outmigration is simply due to bad weather, not economic conditions.

“People will make demographic choices about where they want to live,” Cuomo said. “Some of them are climate-based.”

Cuomo says some New Yorkers just want to move to Florida.

“They want to fish, they like the warm weather, God bless them,” he said.

The independent candidate in the governor’s race, former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, says the remarks prove the governor is “out of touch” and that he is ignoring the problems of high taxes and lack of opportunity. 

Cuomo, one day later in Buffalo, did not back away from his remarks. He says people in the past may have left the state because of high taxes that burden retirees and lack of jobs for young people, but he says that’s not the case now, and there’s been an uptick in millennials moving into the state.

“Today is different than it was, fundamentally,” Cuomo said. “And the factors that existed that caused people to leave no longer exist, and actually people are coming back.”

There is one topic where Cuomo and his opponents, Molinaro and Miner, may all agree. All are reluctant to endorse raising taxes on the wealthy. An income tax surcharge on millionaires expires next year. Cuomo says he won’t decide before Election Day on whether it should be renewed.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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