Cuomo downplays raising taxes in special session this month

Bill Mahoney

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is downplaying the idea of holding a special session in the next couple of weeks to raise revenue, saying that tax hikes should be dealt with only in the budget process, which he dominates.

“At this rate, we’re going to need tax increases,” Cuomo said on Wednesday, after discussing reports that federal aid to states is unlikely to be included in a new coronavirus relief package. “The question is how much of a tax increase, and to determine how much of a tax increase, you have to do that in the budget, because a tax increase is only one mechanism to close the hole. You have a $15 billion hole in the budget. We need $15 billion. OK, well we can do some in taxes — how much? And how are we going to fill the rest of the hole which is going to be in cuts?”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said earlier this week that he’d like some form of tax hikes on the wealthy to be passed before the end of the year. He expressed concerns that waiting until next March, when a new budget is due, to impose taxes retroactively on the prior year could open any such hikes up to legal challenges.

But Cuomo remains optimistic that there will eventually be some form of state aid once President-elect Joe Biden takes office. And, he said, it makes sense to wait until that aid comes before dealing with big budget questions.

“We could do a whole budget now, but then we’re going to close the $15 billion gap now, and it is going to be devastating to people, because you would have to do massive cuts and massive tax increases without the federal aid,” he said.

The governor said that he would distribute $1.5 billion to agencies with cash flow needs as they wait for next year's budget solutions.