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On taxes, it's Albany v. Washington


In Washington right now, Republicans and Democrats are having yet another battle over what to do about taxes — this time, on the tax that funds Social Security.
Previous clashes have been so intractable, so internecine, that a rating agency downgraded the nation’s credit, a stunning vote of no confidence in the ability of the federal government to come to a consensus.
For a tax increase in Albany? All it took was two op-eds, three men in a room, and 33 minutes.
The contrast between the Washington gridlock and the Albany fast track has rarely been so stark, and has one federal representative looking from one Capitol to the other with envy.
“That’s really where we need to be,” said Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh. “I think we had a great example of that in New York state.”
By the numbers, the split of power in Washington and Albany is relatively similar: a Democratic executive and one house of the legislature, and one Republican house of the legislature. While Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been lauded for his leadership, President Barack Obama has been accused of “leading from behind.” New York’s electorate is more liberal than the United States’ at large, but Republicans here made pledges, too, not to raise taxes.
While Mr. Owens was quick to praise Mr. Cuomo, it wasn’t at the exclusion of Mr. Obama.
“I think he reached out to people,” Mr. Owens said. “I think he’s established himself as a person who’s interested in getting things done. He’s moved a number of issues along extremely well. I think he established that credibility and accomplished the goal.”
For his part, Mr. Cuomo has contrasted the failures in Washington with a plain sense approach in Albany.
“Gridlock stopped the government in Washington. We can’t let that happen here,” Mr. Cuomo said in a video that he released on his website prior to the vote. “My plan is balanced, my plan is fair and my plan is achievable.”
Mr. Cuomo unveiled two op-eds, one on Sunday and one on Monday. Mr. Cuomo negotiated in private with Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the famed “three men in a room” process. And 33 minutes after the details of the bill were released, the Republican-controlled Senate, including Sens. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, voted to approve the tax deal. It cut income taxes slightly for middle- and low-income New Yorkers, while raising them for those who make more than $1 million. The plan will bring $1.9 billion into state coffers, helping close a $3.5 billion projected budget gap next year.
Mr. Owens’s staff highlighted comments from Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, about the importance of compromise.
Mr. Owens said that across-the-aisle attitude doesn’t exist in Washington.
“What we don’t have are people on the other side of the aisle who are willing to compromise,” he said. “They are unwilling to take reasonable steps to reach a compromise.”
One man unlikely to support that view of the world is Matthew A. Doheny, Mr. Owens’ likely Republican challenger in 2012. Through a spokesman, Mr. Doheny declined for this article.
He also declined to comment about the most recent imbroglio in Washington over the payroll tax.
Democrats want to extend a payroll tax cut that many middle-income earners pay. To pay for it, they’d like to levy a surtax on millionaires’ incomes. Republicans who control the House are amenable to an extension of the payroll tax, but not the millionaires’ tax, and are attaching other policy initiatives to the bill, like restarting an oil pipeline and a freeze on the pay of federal workers.
Mr. Doheny has pledged never to support raising taxes; Mr. Owens said that a surtax on millionaires to pay for the payroll tax cut extension is a “reasonable” solution.

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