ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's two tax commissions are apparently creating some misunderstanding even within one of the panels.
Under Cuomo's orders, a tax commission has spent the last 10 months coming up with ways to simplify the tax code. But this week, Cuomo announced he will seek a tax cut next year, an election year, and abruptly announced a second tax panel.
Cuomo's first tax commission was ordered to come up with "revenue neutral" recommendations. Commission member James Parrott of the labor-backed Fiscal Policy Institute said the panel is looking to reduce a number of business tax credits and also examining the state tax credit for film and TV production and divert those millions of dollars to other state needs, such as education.
"When you look at the tax code, the state is providing a lot of these and the benefit is not well understood and there has been no evaluation of them," Parrott told The Associated Press. "As someone who is very concerned about the ability of government to invest in human capital and in physical infrastructure, I think there is a real need to very cautious ... the best way to grow the economy is not necessarily to cut taxes, but to invest."
Parrott said the panel will meet next week in part to try to understand its role now that Cuomo has appointed a new tax commission to identify tax cuts.
The chairman of the first commission, Peter Solomon, wouldn't comment on Cuomo's new panel.
"Our tax commission was carrying out the governor's broad mandate," Solomon said Friday. He said the governor concerned neither about the panel's "directions nor our conclusions" and said it could provide a useful menu when considering tax cuts.
Former Democratic Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, now at the Wagner School of New York University, said Cuomo is entitled to a debate about cutting taxes but could have relied on his first panel rather than establishing a new one with a mandate to find cuts — without first deciding if it was appropriate to do so.
"It just would have been more helpful to him if he hadn't decided to pack a second commission with people who already seem to share where he is headed," Brodsky said.
Cuomo announced this week he expects a budget surplus and it's time to cut taxes. That comes after he and the Legislature twice extended a business tax and a surcharge on top earners to raise more than $2 billion a year to balance the budget. A small part of the tax increase funds a modest middle class income tax reduction.
"The tax commission announced this week ... is tasked with identifying ways to reduce property and business taxes for struggling families and businesses across New York state," said Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said. "Mischaracterizations of both its leadership as well as its purpose are unfortunate, but not surprising."
The second tax panel's co-chairman is former Republican Gov. George Pataki. He has a strong following upstate where Cuomo has seen a slide in his polls since he pushed a gun control measure into law earlier this year.