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A step forward

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took a look over his shoulder this week and picked out some of New York’s most successful political leaders to create a commission to examine the state’s income and property tax structure. Former Gov. George E. Pataki and former Comptroller H. Carl McCall will co-chair the commission of eight charged with reporting back to the governor by Dec. 6.

The announcement was made Wednesday in Purchase. It is further evidence that after three budgets of tighter and tighter fiscal control and several months of positive reports on tax receipts from Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, the governor wants to include some sort of tax relief in the State of State Address and his next budget.

The bipartisan commission includes men and women who once served in the following key state roles: director of the state budget, tax commissioner, Senate Republican counsel, congressman and college president, president of the state AFL-CIO and a New York City real estate industry interest group.

They bring a working knowledge of the demands for government services, the implications of tax increases and a deep understanding of the challenges of upstate New York. It is refreshing and heartening that Mr. Cuomo has moved the discussion of taxation higher on the agenda.

Beginning with his legislative victory imposing a property tax cap on local governments and school boards and his announcement of tax-free zones built in partnership with the state’s college campuses, he has repeatedly suggested that New York’s tax burden is unsustainable. Tax relief would do so much more to improve the economy than additional government spending doled out by the Assembly and Senate to groups and organizations in political favor at the time.

New Yorkers need to see their personal paychecks grow. They need property tax relief. Business needs predictability before it will invest, and it needs to see the out-migration of New Yorkers moving to low-tax states with more job opportunities moderate.

Only minutes after the press conference was held, the drumbeat of opposition began. The group New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness and the Fiscal Policy Institute immediately lambasted the proposal and Gov. Pataki’s appointment. They argued that for “a state with record income inequality, child poverty, homelessness and hunger, the appointment of former Gov. George Pataki flies in the face of fairness and a desire for progressive tax policy.”

The Strong Economy for All Coalition attacked the plan saying that “policies of the past just don’t work — we don’t need more tax cuts for the rich and big corporations; we need direct help for working families and those struggling to make it into the middle class.”

Without even making a formal suggestion, Mr. Cuomo has made taxes a major issue for Albany’s political class and for all New Yorkers struggling to find higher wages and better jobs in a state that has not encouraged growth until the recent initiatives by the governor.

This bipartisan, experienced commission is capable of rising above the reactions of narrow interest extreme political groups and showing the way to reform, which will provide the impetus New York needs to gain economic traction and then growth. And they prove to the obstructionists in Washington that New Yorkers understand the traditions of governance.

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