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Joel Giambra (left) claimed he was the only Republican candidate for governor who has cut taxes. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News) Joel Giambra (left) claimed he was the only Republican candidate for governor who has cut taxes. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Joel Giambra (left) claimed he was the only Republican candidate for governor who has cut taxes. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

By Dan Clark February 28, 2018

Is Giambra the only GOP candidate for NY governor who's cut taxes?

Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra says he’s the only Republican candidate for governor with experience cutting taxes.

Giambra said that gives him an advantage over the other two Republicans running for governor: State Sen. John A. DeFrancisco and Joseph Holland, a former housing commissioner under Gov. George E. Pataki.

"I'm the only candidate on this stage who has actually cut taxes," Giambra said at a debate among the three candidates.

Giambra served as Erie County Executive from 2000 until the end of 2007. He is remembered partly for proposing two different budgets for 2005 with the county in fiscal distress. He most recently worked as a lobbyist.

DeFrancisco has represented part of Central New York in the State Senate since 1993. He was named deputy majority leader in 2015, the second most powerful position in the chamber. Holland has not served in a role where he would be able to cut taxes.

Is Giambra right? Is he the only candidate in the race who cut taxes?

Giambra’s record

Giambra’s spokesperson said he was talking about experience cutting taxes while serving in an executive position. Neither DeFrancisco or Holland has ever been elected as an executive.

But Giambra did not specify that during the debate. Instead, he suggested he is the only candidate with experience reducing taxes.

It’s true, Giambra cut taxes in Erie County. The county property tax levy when he entered office in 2000 was about $181 million. He reduced it to about $152 million in his first budget for 2001, a cut of 16 percent.

Giambra kept the levy flat until 2005, when the fiscal crisis hit. Giambra proposed two budgets for that year to respond to a $108 million deficit. Both cut county services so the tax levy would remain flat.

Giambra’s proposed "green budget" cut less in exchange for a higher sales tax rate. His "red budget" proposed more severe cuts in lieu of a sales tax increase.

The county legislature ultimately approved the first option. The property tax levy only increased about 3 percent in 2005.

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But the county’s fiscal crisis was not over. Giambra agreed to raise property taxes more than $30 million in 2006, a 19 percent increase. The total levy that year was about $188 million, or about 3 percent higher than when Giambra took office.

Giambra’s final two budgets for 2007 and 2008 increased the property tax levy by 6.3 percent and 5.9 percent respectively. The final tax levy he approved totaled about $211 million.

DeFrancisco’s record

DeFrancisco held two of the Senate’s top positions when lawmakers cut state income tax rates twice in the past eight years.

He was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 2011, when lawmakers agreed to reduce state income tax rates. The committee crafts the Senate’s counter-proposal to the governor’s budget and has to approve any legislation with a fiscal impact before it goes to the floor for a vote.

The lower rates were a trade-off for an extension of the state’s high tax rate on wealthy earners. DeFrancisco voted for the bill.

He was deputy majority leader when lawmakers approved another set of income tax cuts in the 2016 state budget. The deputy majority leader controls what happens on the floor of the Senate. DeFrancisco voted to approve the cuts.

The lower rates were first proposed by Republicans in the Senate earlier that year. They wanted to lower the tax rate for middle-income earners from 6.45 percent to 5.14 percent. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Assembly agreed to lower the rate to 5.5 percent instead.

DeFrancisco voted for other tax cuts in that time as well, including a cut in the state’s corporate tax rate and an expansion of the estate tax.

Our ruling

Giambra said he is the only Republican gubernatorial candidate "who has actually cut taxes."

It's true he's the only candidate in the race who has done that in an executive office. But he did not make that distinction in the debate. The two other candidates have not held an executive office.

It's worth noting Giambra did not cut those Erie County property taxes alone. County lawmakers approved the budgets he proposed. He’s not the only candidate with experience cutting taxes.

DeFrancisco was a leader in the Senate when the chamber voted to approve a handful of tax cuts since 2011. The tax cuts would not have happened without senators like him voting for them. 

Giambra’s statement is not accurate. We rate it False.

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"I'm the only candidate on this stage who has actually cut taxes."
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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Our Sources

Email and phone conversation with Tony Farina, Giambra’s spokesperson

Email conversation with Michael Lawler, DeFrancisco’s spokesperson

"NYS Senate Republicans pitch tax cut for 5 million middle-class taxpayers", Syracuse.com, March 9, 2016

Senate Republicans Unveil Sweeping Tax Cut Plan to Provide Billions of Dollars in Tax Relief, NY Senate Republicans, March 9, 2016

"Giambra says property taxes to be cut 12%", The Buffalo News, May 14, 2000

2018 Proposed Erie County Budget

2006 Erie County Budget Message and Summary, p. 51

2008 Erie County Budget Message and Summary, p. 52

2009 Erie County Budget Message and Summary, p. 39

"Cuts, Then More Cuts, in the Buffalo Area Budget", New York Times, 2005

"Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra running for governor", WBFO, Jan. 3, 2018

PolitiFact New York: Cuomo's budget does not include new tax cuts, March 17, 2017

Senate Bill S6409C, 2016 income tax rate cuts

Senate Bill S50002, 2011 income tax rate cuts

"The New New York Estate Tax Beware A 164% Marginal Rate", Forbes, April 1, 2014

Sen. DeFrancisco’s Senate Biography Page

"New York Corporate Tax Overhaul Broadens Bases, Lowers Rates, and Reduces Complexity." Tax Foundation, April 14, 2014

Property Taxes in New York State, 2006, Office of the State Comptroller

"Another Sales Tax Hike for Erie County", WBFO, 2005

"Giambra presents 2 budget proposals", Buffalo Business First, Nov. 4, 2004

"Erie County Budget Crisis Top Local Story of 2004," WBFO, 2005

"Governor Cuomo Announces On-Time Passage of Historic, Transformational 2011-12 New York State Budget." March 31, 2011

New York’s Property Tax Cap, The Empire Center, May 23, 2016

"Albany Tax Deal to Raise Rate for Highest Earners", New York Times, Dec. 6, 2011

"Erie County Seeks Oversight on Finances", New York Times, May 21, 2005

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