ALBANY -- Even as he publicly vows support for Gov. Cuomo's agenda to fix the state, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused yesterday to endorse three of the newly elected governor's key proposals, including ending the state's surtax on the rich.
The powerful speaker repeatedly ducked questions about whether he backed Cuomo's call to let expire an income-tax surcharge on New Yorkers making more than $200,000 annually, saying he first must see the new governor's budget proposal and confer with his Democratic Conference.
The $4 billion-a-year tax is set to expire Dec. 31, three months before the end of the fiscal year. Facing an estimated $10 billion budget gap, the state would have to cut $1 billion in spending to cover the loss.
"Collectively, we will get together and look at that budget," Silver (D-Manhattan) told Albany's WGDJ radio. "We'll make a determination whether those cuts should go into effect or whether that tax should continue."
The sphinx-like speaker stood in stark contrast to newly elected Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-LI), who said he "absolutely" supports letting the tax expire.
"The worst thing we could do is more taxes or send the message that we're going to continue to tax our way out of economic problems," Skelos said.
Silver can't unilaterally prevent the tax from expiring, but Cuomo insiders fear he might hold up an overall budget agreement unless Cuomo keeps the tax and uses it to restore cut spending. The three-year surcharge was first approved by Gov. David Paterson in 2009 at Silver's urging.
"We want everyone to contribute to getting the state out of its budget mess," Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens), a Silver ally, told Fox Business News yesterday.
The state's top income-tax rate -- that paid by taxpayers earning more than $500,000 -- would fall from 8.97 percent to 6.85 percent if the surcharge expires.
Silver's silence came a day after Cuomo delivered a rousing State of the State Address in which he called on lawmakers to end the state's status as the "tax capital of the nation."
Cuomo said fiscal discipline, as well as capping local property-tax hikes at 2 percent and overhauling the state's ethics laws, was essential to restoring confidence and improving the business climate.
I hope Shelly and the Assembly Dems stick to their guns on this.
Cuomo keeps saying he is in favor of "shared sacrifice," but as far as I can see from his plans (and the Republican approval for them), he seems to think that means he sacrifices middle and working class people so that his hedge fund/education reform/Wall Street criminal friends can rake in even more money than they already have.