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Is This How Government Should Work?

Elected officials across New York State are taking credit for voting to “reform” the tax code by lowering taxes as the Buffalo News described by a “measly” four-tenths of one percent, for those making $40,000 to $150,000. The New York Times points out that the biggest cuts in this so called reform goes to those who earn between $300,00 to $2 million per year as their taxes are being lowered by up to two percent.

Questions are being raised as to how Governor Cuomo and state legislators are conducting the public’s business.

Governor Cuomo first notified the public that he wanted to revise New York’s tax code on a Sunday afternoon, with an e-mail sent to the press. Two days later Cuomoannounced that he and legislative leaders had agreed to changes in the tax code; that same day he summoned lawmakers back to Albany and the next day (Wednesday), legislators voted to change the state’s tax code. Not a single public hearing or meeting was held, and up until minutes before voting copies of the proposed tax legislation was not made available to legislators and the public.

The State League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the Public Interest Research Group, released a joint statement as follows:

“The announcement today of leadership’s agreement on a proposal to revise the state’s tax code responds to the call by many to make tax policy fair. However, the process by which the deal was struck is a continuation of the backdoor-deal making that has defined Albany culture. It is important that the people’s business – particularly policies that will directly impact the taxpayers and the economic health of this state – be conducted in the open.”

The New York Times described Cuomo’s policy making strategy as: “information is tightly controlled, negotiations are carried out behind closed doors and the debate is limited to just a few people. “The Times also reports that Legislators sought information from reporters because as one stated “We don’t know anything”. Until lawmakers started voting on the measure, the governor did not hold a news conference to answer questions.

The state legislature is required by law to wait three days between the time a bill is introduced and voted on. The purpose of the waiting period is to allow lawmakers and the public time to review proposed legislation. For emergency reasons the three day period can be waived. A legal challenge has been filed regarding the process utilized to pass same-sex marriage in New York. A state judge hearing the case accused Cuomo of “arm-twisting” to get the Legislature to waive its usual three day waiting period.

The waiting period was also waived to allow for a quick vote on changing the tax code. According to the New York Public Interest Research Group, the 33 page tax code legislation was posted online 26 minutes before the Senate began voting on it.

The criticism of New York State government in the past was that partisan gridlock prevented things from getting done. Under Cuomo things are getting done behind closed doors and with little public debate or input. Which raises the following questions:

Is this how government should work? Do the means being utilized justify the end results?

What do you think?

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