Golisano Crashes Tax-Cap Rally (Updated 2x)

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Promoters of a tax-cap in Rochester today were greeted by an unexpected guest: Local billionaire Tom Golisano.

And, according to an eyewitness, Golisano and Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi got into a heated exchange about the benefits of a tax cap.

In fact, at one point, Golisano walked to podium to say a tax-cap is baloney because it would only limit tax growth in schools to 4 percent a year. Golisano, a fiscal conservative and three time gubernatorial candidate, said the cap should be limited to little or no growth.

That drew criticism from Suozzi when he retook the microphone and Golisano walked back into the audience, standing against a wall, according to a source at the event.

Suozzi, who heads the state commission that recommended the cap, argued that the report has 22 recommedations to curb school spending. He said that if Golisano had read the report he would know that.

But Golisano fired back and asked Suozzi to name the top three recommendations, which Suozzi apparently couldn’t do.

Updated: Another attendee said that Suozzi said “perfectly” what the three recommendations are — tax cap, circuit breaker and mandate relief.

The debate went on as most of the media had apparently left.

Interesting that the two of them would be duking it out. They’ve had a pretty cordial relationship over the years, with Suozzi heavily courting Golisano and his money when Suozzi ran for governor in 2006.

Now Golisano has entered back into the political mix with a $5 million contribution to his new PAC, Responsible New York, to give to legislative candidates this year.

The moral of the story: Canidates seeking Golisano’s support may want to rethink their position on a tax cap.

Updated #2: Ellen Rosen, spokeswoman for the Rochester Business Alliance, called in to say that Suozzi and Golisano met with afternoon with RBA President Sandy Parker to continue their, um, discussion.

And apparently, they found a compromise: Golisano agreed to support a cap — if it’s at 2 percent a year.

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  1. Tom Suozzi has the guts to come forward with a plan (flawed in that the only politically palatable piece of it that is likely to pass is the cap. The critical component of the plan is not so much the cap (a means to an end) but the other recommendations — particularly a repeal of unfunded mandates — then — you propbably won’t even need a cap. Suozzi has seized on the art of the possible — while Golisano just wants to be a ineffectual side show attraction.