State GOP chairman Ed Cox said he will visit parts of upstate New York to question Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to create tax-free zones near college campuses.
Cuomo told Gannett’s Albany Bureau on Friday that the upstate economy will be his top focus, and he sees the Start-Up NY program as a major step toward job growth on or near college campuses, particularly the state colleges.
Cox said the tax-free plan, which passed with bi-partisan support in the Legislature last month, is flawed. He said the program will be targeted toward start-up companies that aren’t so much interested in tax subsidies as they are capital to get their companies up and running.
Cox said Cuomo should cut taxes for small businesses and target the cuts upstate.
“What you need is to cut taxes across the board and let the free markets work rather than having government control the program,” Cox told Gannett.
Cox said he plans to visit parts of the state to chide the Democratic governor for the program. They also plan a media blitz, but he didn’t offer specifics.
Cuomo himself has toured the state since the end of the legislative session June 21 to tout the program, but Cox said, “It is a program with very little substance and a lot of political theater.”
Some business groups have also called on Cuomo to make broad-based tax cuts. Cuomo told Gannett on Friday that it would be too expensive to do so and also wouldn’t help upstate as much because most of the business taxes are paid in New York City.
Cox’s tour comes as state Republicans over the next six months or so will have to start considering candidates to challenge Cuomo in 2014. At the top of the list appears to be Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino and Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro.
Astorino, who is up for re-election this November, is doing his first upstate tour on July 11-12, which will only fuel speculation about his political plans. Molinaro has also ventured outside the county: He spoke recently at the Rockland County GOP annual dinner.
Cox said Cuomo is vulnerable as he seeks a second term. A Siena College poll June 17 showed Cuomo’s popularity dropped to its lowest level since he took office. Upstate, 54 percent said they would vote for someone else compared to 40 percent who would back him.
“There’s a lot of hype with very little substance to it,” Cox said of Cuomo’s record.
Updated: Rodney Capel, the executive director of the state Democratic Committee offered this assessment.
“Maybe Ed Cox should meet Dean Skelos and the Republican senators who attended the announcement and bill signing for START-UP NY. The question remains — who does Cox speak for if not the top elected Republicans in New York?”