Gov. Andrew Cuomo is appointing a new tax cutting commission that he has charged with finding ways of slicing state revenues by $2 to $3 billion next year.
Cuomo turned to the man who beat his father in the 1994 governor’s race, George Pataki, to co-chair the commission. Pataki, a Republican, defeated Mario Cuomo on a platform that included tax cuts.
Pataki, who says the state spends too much and costs too much, says he’s happy to serve on the commission, but at first thought a mistake had been made.
“I have to confess, when I got the call from Cuomo, I wasn’t sure he had dialed the right number,” said Pataki, to laughter.
Cuomo praised Pataki, saying he was the right person for the job.
“We gave it to the best people imaginable,” Cuomo said of the appointments to the tax commission. “Representing different political parties, different political perspectives.”
The announcement was made in Westchester County, and comes in the same week that Cuomo’s job performance fell below 50 percent for the first time since taking office. A Siena poll found Cuomo’s approval rating at 49 percent.
“It is the weakest job performance he’s had since he’s been governor,” said Siena’s Steve Greenberg.
Most politicians consider a popularity rating below 50 percent to be troublesome when facing reelection, although Cuomo has no announced opponent for the 2014 governor’s race, so far.
The inclusion of Pataki, who remains popular, could help the governor win back upstate and more conservative voters, who have turned against Cuomo in recent months.
The other co-chairman of the tax commission is a popular figure in New York City, former state Comptroller Carl McCall. McCall would likely have defeated Cuomo in the 2002 governor’s race. McCall was leading in the polls when Cuomo dropped out of the Democratic primary race one week before voting day.
McCall, reading from a prepared text, praised Cuomo, saying the state is in the best financial shape he’s seen in years.
“Under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership New York has managed to turn the tide on its economic situation,” McCall said.
Cuomo compared his choosing of a bipartisan tax cutting commission to the gridlock in Washington, where the government has been shut down since Tuesday. He says in New York, during his term in office, the state has had the exact opposite experience.
“A situation like Washington, everybody loses, because literally you just don’t move forward,” Cuomo said.
Neither Cuomo, McCall, nor Pataki answered reporter’s questions afterward.
Cuomo’s tax commission was praised by business groups, as well as the leader of the state GOP, who said it was about time.
Progressive groups, however, say they find the announcement odd, and say the appointment of Pataki flies in the face of a desire for progressive tax policy.
The announcement can be seen as the beginning of Cuomo’s 2014 reelection campaign. The governor says tax cuts will be the centerpiece of the agenda for next year.