While the verbal smackdown President Donald Trump gave New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during a meeting last week couldn’t be heard outside the White House, it’s probably still being felt in Albany.
Cuomo went to Washington, D.C. on Feb. 12 to complain about the effect the 2018 Tax reform has had on his states’ finances. The elimination of the state and local tax (SALT) exemption above $10,000 in the 2017 tax cut legislation has created a $2.3 billion deficit. With some of the highest state taxes in the country, New York doesn’t want to raise them any further, and is suing the federal government over the tax change.
What Cuomo got was a speech from Trump about how the New York governor’s policies were hurting working people throughout the Northeast to a greater degree than the end of the tax exemption ever will. According to the White House press read-out, Trump chided Cuomo for not helping lower energy prices “throughout the entire Northeast by allowing low-cost, American energy to thrive with fracking and pipeline systems.”
Cuomo has a different recollection of what happened, saying that the end of the SALT exemption is “hurting the economic engines of the nation,” which is debatable on many levels. Trump’s criticism has the benefit of being demonstrably true, and Cuomo’s energy malpractice is two-fold.
In 2014, Cuomo engineered the banning of hydraulic fracturing in New York, despite the likely existence of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas underground that could have added thousands of jobs for upstate New Yorkers. More covertly, Cuomo’s administration has slow-walked or blocked state-level permits that would have allowed two natural gas pipelines to move gas from Pennsylvania to the greater Northeast.
The net result of all of this is that Cuomo’s blocking of pipelines into and through the Empire State costs New York households in the range of $1,000 in heating costs per year, regardless of the household’s income. New York’s geographic position means all six New England states—Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine—are now overly dependent on imported natural gas from Trinidad and Russia that is often between two and three times as expensive per heating unit.
Since New Yorkers keep re-electing Cuomo to high office, one could argue local voters know what’s best for themselves, but the blocking of cheap natural gas transport to New England is something voters in those other states have no control over, and they are essentially being victimized as a result.
A study in 2017 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found residents in the Northeast pay 44 percent more than the national average for electricity and 30 percent more for natural gas. Industrial users of electricity pay 62 percent more than the national average, which explains a lot about the hollowing out of the region’s manufacturing base in the past 50 years.
Cuomo seems to confuse New York’s place as a global financial center with its past position as a major manufacturing “engine of the country” in the 20th Century. But how exactly does the financial industry help employment opportunities for New York voters without a graduate college degree or who live outside commuting distance to Manhattan? One could argue that outmigration to Florida and elsewhere in the Sunbelt over the past 30 years has been one of the Empire State’s biggest consistent exports.
Using the crudest of metrics to measure direct political power, the 30 percent decline in New York’s Electoral College vote from 41 in 1980 to 29 in 2016 is of such symbolic and real significance that you would think progressives would brag more about how effectively they get rid of their own demographic power and influence.
Progressive politics and cheap energy aren’t mutually exclusive—just look at the Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon—but permanently high energy prices make the problems of paying for progressive economic policies impossible to solve.
Trump seems to understand the plight of working-class, energy-dependent New Yorkers better than Cuomo. Does Cuomo still wonder how Trump became President?
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