The Governor’s Agenda

Most officials here have accepted the 2-percent tax-increase cap as a fact of life, but it is nothing short of a revolution in two decimal places

    Two numbers that may not seem related but have everything to do with each other are worth thinking about: $33 million and 2 percent. These are the sum now on hand in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign war chest and the limit on tax-levy increases by local governments and school districts, which he steered into law. Both speak to his ambitions and likely attempt to be the Democratic presidential nominee at some point in the future.

    That wealthy donors support the popular governor is clear. According to a recent analysis by the New York Public Interest Group, $8 out of every $10 in the governor’s war chest has come from those contributing $10,000 or more, and 242 individuals and corporations have given him $40,000 or more. Just under 7 cents on the dollar in Mr. Cuomo’s political bank accounts has come from those contributing less than $1,000.

    Most officials here have accepted the 2-percent tax-increase cap as a fact of life, but it is nothing short of a revolution in two decimal places. Its power is substantial, both in terms of Mr. Cuomo’s political aspirations and the effect on local municipalties. By holding tax increases to 2 percent, or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, Albany found a way to help shrink the size of local taxing entities and to drive school cuts. The goal, as Mr. Cuomo hinted in his State of the State address, is to force further reductions through shared services and consolidation. The cost and proliferation of local governments, he said, were a “major structural problem,” and, by the way, a shot at attracting center-right campaign contributions.

    Local officials need to be wary that Mr. Cuomo sees them as a rung on his ladder to the White House. Here, where small taxing districts are plentiful, the impact of the governor’s revolution is already being felt.