Senate GOP: Cuomo tax changes unlikely by budget deadline

Republicans who control the New York state Senate threw a major roadblock in front of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's tax code restructuring proposals Tuesday, announcing their opposition to the Democrat's plan and essentially guaranteeing it won't make it into the state budget by its April 1 deadline.

Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan of Long Island, the Legislature's most powerful Republican, said he was skeptical of the state tax overhaul Cuomo unveiled Monday. When asked during a Capitol news conference if Cuomo's plans could be worked out in budget negotiations by the end of March, Flanagan replied, "no."

Flanagan's reaction came a day after Cuomo administration officials released the first details of his response to the federal tax overhaul that's expected to adversely affect New York state. Cuomo's proposal includes a voluntary payroll tax that companies could adopt in lieu of the existing income tax paid by workers.

Flanagan said he was particularly skeptical of the "voluntary" part of that Cuomo provision.

"We need to see the details because sometimes voluntary is not voluntary," he said.

Cuomo's ambitious plan aims to restructure the state's tax code to ease the burden of the federal law enacted just before Christmas. The law will raise many New Yorkers' federal taxes by sharply capping a deduction for state and local taxes that was especially popular in high-tax states.

Cuomo's tax overhaul plan was included in several budget amendments he released Monday. He wants the plan to be included in a final budget worked out with the Senate and Democrat-controlled Assembly. Both the Senate and Cuomo have proposed decoupling the state tax code from the federal law in order to soften the impact of the federal tax changes on New York taxpayers.

Flanagan commented during the Senate GOP's unveiling of its 2018 "jobs and opportunity" agenda, which focuses on cutting taxes on small businesses, improving or eliminating some state economic development programs, and reducing red tape.

"The end game here is jobs, good, quality, high-paying jobs," Flanagan said.

Senate Republicans control the chamber in a coalition with eight breakaway Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference. Mainstream Senate Democrats blasted their GOP counterparts as aiding Trump administration policies they say will hurt the state's middle class.

"We need real solutions to lower taxes for middle class New Yorkers not just empty promises and fake rhetoric," spokesman Mike Murphy said.