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Zeldin represented part of Long Island in the state Senate for two terms at the beginning of the Cuomo administration, and voted for every budget while he was there.
The budgets were negotiated between the administration and the legislature.
Zeldin voted for a tax reform package that yielded new revenue for the state. It included middle class tax cuts, and put the tax rate for high earners slightly lower than it had been, but higher than if the rate had been allowed to expire.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Harry Wilson aims to discredit one of the leading candidates in the GOP primary, Rep. Lee Zeldin, with claims that Zeldin supported the economic plans put forth over the years by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.
Wilson, a businessman from Westchester County, claims in an ad that "Lee Zeldin was Andrew Cuomo’s favorite Republican." The ad goes on to say Zeldin "voted for Cuomo’s Billion Dollar Tax hike and every Cuomo budget."
Primaries for statewide offices are set for June 28. Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and former Trump administration aide Andrew Giuliani are also running in the Republican primary for governor.
Zeldin, a Long Island congressman, was elected to the state Senate in 2010 and served two terms. We checked his voting record on every state budget during that time. Each budget was passed in multiple bills, addressing revenue, aid to localities, and debt service among other parts, and lawmakers vote on each of them.
Zeldin voted in favor of all of the budget bills during his years in the state Senate. Many of these bills passed with overwhelming support in the Senate, sometimes without any senator voting against them. During this period, Republicans controlled the Senate, at times with support from the Independent Democratic Caucus, and they negotiated with the Assembly’s Democratic leadership and the Cuomo administration.
We asked Wilson’s campaign about his claim that Zeldin voted in favor of a "billion-dollar tax hike." Campaign spokesperson Alex Wilkes said that in 2011, Zeldin supported the state budget's $1.9 billion tax increase, (revenue was set to increase by that much, though supporters of the tax reform package would say that rates actually went down) and in 2013 Zeldin voted for the state budget that included an extension of a tax targeting high earners. The tax was set to expire in 2014, but the budget vote in March 2013 extended it until 2017.
Some observers, like E.J. McMahon, a close watcher of state finances and a fiscal conservative, called the extension in 2013 a tax increase. The tax on high earners was supposed to end, but Cuomo and the Legislature kept it in place, resulting in a 29% increase for high earners, McMahon said. He reached that figure by calculating what they would have paid had the tax targeting high earners expired and what they paid under the rate established by the plan passed by the lawmakers.
Following the tax reform in late 2011, tax receipts were projected to increase by $1.9 billion. According to the Cuomo administration, the budget for the 2013 fiscal year (April 1, 2012, through March 31, 2013,) raised more tax revenue, though it also created savings for the middle class. An April 2012 report from the Cuomo administration projected a $2 billion increase in tax receipts from what was collected in fiscal year 2012 and what it expected to collect in fiscal year 2013. An expected gross increase of $1.9 billion was attributed to "tax reform."
This reform package lowered rates slightly for the highest earners, but did not bring them down to what they would have been had the higher rates been allowed to expire. The report also projected a $250 million decrease in tax revenue from an MTA payroll tax relief plan for small businesses and a decrease of $135 million from tax credits and other initiatives. Though the tax reforms were a revenue-raiser for the state, the budget division wrote: "The tax reform measures are intended to enhance fairness in the tax system and are expected to provide $900 million in savings for middle class New Yorkers and small business."
When asked about Wilson’s claim, Zeldin spokesperson Katie Vincentz pointed to the downstate payroll tax break, and a middle-income tax cut, both agreed to as part of the 2011 tax package, and said all of the budgets contained conservative wins.
Vincentz also said the budgets shouldn't be called Cuomo budgets, because they were negotiated with and voted on by the Legislature and that members of the Senate majority changed Cuomo’s budget proposals.
Wilson claims Zeldin "voted for Cuomo’s Billion Dollar Tax hike and every Cuomo budget."
While in the state Senate, Zeldin did vote for a final version of every budget that Cuomo proposed. But calling it "Cuomo’s budget" erases the role the state Legislature played in negotiating and making changes to Cuomo’s proposals.
The changes to the tax rates were intended to bring in more revenue, though many in the state experienced a tax cut. The highest earners paid a lower rate than they had been paying, but more than they would have paid if the rate had been allowed to expire.
The claim is partially accurate because the tax revenue was projected to increase, but it leaves out important details and takes some things out of context, so we rate it Half True.
Harry Wilson news release, "New Harry Wilson TV Ad: ‘Lee Zeldin was Andrew Cuomo’s favorite Republican,’" May 6, 2022, accessed May 12, 2022
Email interview, Alex Wilkes, spokesperson, Harry Wilson campaign, May 13, 16, 2022
Email interview, Katie Vincentz, spokesperson, Lee Zeldin campaign, May 12, 2022
Email interview, Lucy Dadayan, senior research associate, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, May 13, 2022
The Empire Center, Commentary, "Quacks like a mess," April 1, 2013, accessed May 16, 2022
The Empire Center, Commentary, "More revenue, more spending," Dec. 9, 2011, accessed May 17, 2022.
The Empire Center, "How the tax cut stacks up," April 1, 2016, accessed May 20, 2022.
New York State Division of the Budget, "Enacted Budget Financial Plan for Fiscal Year 2013," April 2012, accessed May 17, 2022.
The New York Times, "Legislature set to pass budget and extend on-time streak to third year," March 26, 2013, accessed May 19, 2022.
WNYC, "NY Gov. Cuomo signs MTA Tax Reduction into law," Dec. 12, 2011, accessed May 19, 2022
CBS News, "Gov. Cuomo, Legislature agree on middle-class tax cuts for New Yorkers," Dec. 6, 2011, accessed May 19, 2022
PolitiFact, "Does New York state have the second highest tax on the wealthy? No," May 31, 2018, accessed May 19, 2022
PolitiFact, "Cynthia Nixon claims Cuomo has helped corporations and the rich," March 23, 2018, accessed May 20, 2022
New York State Office of Tax Policy Analysis, "Annual Statistical Report, 2012-2013 New York State Tax Collections," November 2013, accessed May 20, 2022
The New York Times, "Albany tax deal to raise rate for highest earners," Dec. 6, 2011, accessed May 20, 2022
Citizens Budget Commission, "NYS trends during the Cuomo administration," Oct. 18, 2018, accessed May 20, 2022
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