Pataki's Prattle

Job-Jingo Governor Proposes 'State-Killing' Budget

In fact, New York job growth lagged behind the national rate for every Pataki year except 1999, when it marginally exceeded it. National employment grew by 12.6 percent between 1995 and 2001, while New York's grew by 8.8 percent, suggesting that it was national economic trends, not Pataki tax cuts, that were prompting growth. Pataki's ideological appropriation of state jobs data is best illustrated by the press releases his top economic adviser, Steve Kagann, posted during the boom, which attributed "the vast majority of the new jobs" to the "substantial program of state tax cuts which began in 1995." Kagann's most recent release, however, starts by ascribing state job losses to "the lingering effects of the national recession."

A recent Times story depicted Pataki's refusal to boost taxes as consistent with the strategies of neighboring governors Jim McGreevey (Democrat) of New Jersey and John Rowland (Republican) of Connecticut. However, while McGreevey is resisting tax increases this year, he put through almost a billion in corporate increases last year, precisely when New York should have been taking early action to stop the bleeding. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said New Jersey was one of six states whose tax hikes exceeded 3 percent of their budget, and that McGreevey's closing of corporate loopholes "represents the most significant attempt to do so by any state."

Rowland proposed a dollar in tax increases for every dollar in spending reductions, including a tax on millionaires, noting that they were the sort of tax hikes that he'd "opposed throughout my time in public service." Rowland is hardly alone among Republican governors—Sonny Perdue (Georgia), Bob Taft (Ohio), Kenny Guinn (Nevada), and Mike Huckabee (Arkansas) proposed new taxes. Dirk Kempthorne, the governor of Idaho who is the top Republican in the Governor's Association, is pushing for the largest increase in state history. Pataki's refusal aligns him with Florida friend Jeb Bush and the other Bush in the White House, the only audience our governor cares about these days.

Pataki would do well to take a page from Huckabee, who took office the same year Pataki did, signed the first ever broad-based tax cut in Arkansas history, and now wants a hike. He told the legislature in January: "Talk-show hosts and columnists can afford to offer simple answers and ideological platitudes. You cannot. You've not been elected to engage in empty slogans or bumper sticker doctrines."

Research assistance: Cathy Bussewitz, Felicia Mello, Solana Pyne, E.B. Solomont, and Steven I. Weiss

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