For Cuomo And Astorino, Two Different New Yorks
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino see two very different states when it comes to the New York economy.
For Cuomo, it’s a state that’s weathered an economic recession and come out better on the other end. The governor, when promoting his economic record, is in the thrall of statistics, from the lowered unemployment rate, changes made to the state’s tax structure and the improved credit rating.
“Unemployment rate down to 6.2 percent, lowest unemployment rate since 2008 and 511,000 new jobs, which is a very big deal — a half million families who are working,” Cuomo told reporters last week. “So economically, we’re having great news.”
Cuomo points to budgets that have held the line on spending, passed on time and led to upgrades in the state’s credit rating. Last week, Cuomo received an award from the Tax Foundation for changes made to the state’s income tax. Never mind that only two years ago, a top Cuomo aide knocked the organization as a right-wing think tank.
“We streamlined our code dramatically, which is one of the factors they take into consideration and that’s why we went from 25th to fourth,” Cuomo said. “It’s no doubt, they are a conservative organization. It’s no doubt they bring their philosophy to bare.”
As he campaigns around the state, Astorino sees a different economic picture for the state and a governor who hasn’t done enough. Indeed, Astorino, a Republican who is playing up his economic agenda (and not socially conservative stances on abortion and same-sex marriage) prefers illustrating an economic outlook for New York that is far different from Cuomo’s.
Astorino, who is behind Cuomo by 20 percentage points in the most recent poll, believes the governor seeing things through rose-colored glasses.
While Cuomo sees the macro picture, Astorino is trying to show New Yorkers — including the press, voters and anyone who cares to listen — the individual’s experience in the current economic climate.
Astorino frequently invokes anecdotal experiences on the campaign trail of property owners, business owners and farmers who are not seeing, for whatever reason, a recovery.
But the challenge for Astorino is a stark one.
Cuomo has sought to take the tax-and-spend attack Republicans make, a case he made at the state Democratic convention in May.
“The Democratic Party has a new credibility. Remember how our opponents liked to scare people? They’d say if you elect a Democrat, you know what those Democrats are going to do they’re going to raise your taxes because Democrats love big government,” Cuomo said in his convention speech.
Cuomo pushed for and won a cap on increasing local property taxes.
He engineered a change to the state’s tax code that he has alternatively claimed was a tax hike (satisfying liberals who wanted the so-called “millionaires tax” rates re-approved) and, more recently, played up as an income tax cut (only in Albany does something that generate $1.9 billion in revenue toward paying down a deficit become cutting taxes!).
The moderate, or some might say conservative, approach on taxes and spending has alienated Cuomo from the left and he was forced to put down a spirited primary challenge from a little-known Fordham Law School professor, Zephyr Teachout.
This, in part, is why Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins now hopes to potentially move the third-party’s ballot line position up to potentially Row C, campaigning on a tax-the-wealthy, hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour platform.
The Working Families Party considered running their own candidate before the governor agreed to a series of concessions such as allowing local governments to raise the state’s minimum wage on their own through a state-based formula.
Nevertheless, Cuomo insists throughout his book, “All Things Possible,” that governing from the center is the appropriate and more comfortable place for most voters.
He’s dusting off 90s-era Clintonian third-way Democratic politics. While it’s always annoyed liberals, Cuomo hopes it will give him at least 51 percent of the vote next month.
But it’s an agenda that has earned him support from the business community, including the state Business Council. For two years, Cuomo virtually had his own super PAC, the Committee to Save New York, running ads promoting his economic agenda (The group, composed of wealthy business and private-sector interests, folded up shop before new independent-expenditure disclosure laws came into effect).
With monied traditional allies of Republicans — real estate, hedge-fund types — on Team Cuomo, perhaps that is why Astorino has struggled to make a dent on the issue.
The Westchester County executive has slammed Cuomo on mandated spending and regulatory issues and has pledged to change laws businesses find onerous like the Scaffold Law.
But with Cuomo receiving high marks from the business community, Astorino can come close to sounding like a populist when criticizing Cuomo on the economy.
“There’s a difference between Cuomo’s world and the world of New York that we live in,” Astorino said while visiting a hardware store in Saratoga County on Sunday.
He was campaigning with two Republican candidates for Congress and state Assembly, Elise Stefanik and Steve Stallmer.
As he spoke about the state’s tax climate, Stefanik occasionally chimed in with a “that’s right!” while Stallmer at one point interrupted Astorino to note the out-migration from the state.
Astorino in particular points to Cuomo not making a decision on whether to allow high-volume hydrofracking in the state’s Southern Tier, which continues to lag the rest of the state in job growth.
For Astorino, the argument is the individual New Yorker isn’t seeing the fruits of the economic turnaround.
“The average person is getting pummeled with taxes, cannot afford to live in this state anymore,” Astorino said. “Businesses are closing, people are moving, that’s the reality of New York right now — other than the privileged few, the well-connected that write $50,000 checks to this governor and get a little break in their taxes from him.”
In other words, Astorino’s saying, Cuomo is out of touch on the individual economy, no matter the stats he can throw out there.
Astorino also took a swipe at Cuomo for traveling to the Caribbean to appear with officials in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Astorino began his own campaign in the Bronx, which as a county has the highest unemployment in the state.
“While he’s in the presidential palace in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, I was in the south Bronx,” he said.
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