Caucus chair says he can’t see a way to support Cuomo tax cut

Assemblyman Karim Camara. ()
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ALBANY—The leader of state Legislature's conference of non-white legislators doesn't see any scenario in which he can support a tax cut next year, a potential stumbling block for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus—a politically potent block of 39 lawmakers known here simply as "the caucus"—said its priorities include an increase in education funding beyond what Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, has signaled will be in next year's budget.

Caucus members, who on Monday were flanked by union leaders and the Rev. Al Sharpton at a rally to discuss new priorities, have spoken in favor of tax increases to fund these services.

“I'll speak for myself: I'm concerned about how we implement tax cuts, and how the loss of revenue impacts people who really need government service, particularly education,” Camara told Capital. “In terms of the exact plan, I would have to see it and talk to other caucus members before I speak for them. But I personally don't see any scenario where I would support a tax cut. … We've talked in the past about austerity budgets. … We do have to deal with the realities of economic crisis, but we don't feel it helps the crisis by reducing taxes on those who can pay the most.”

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Cuomo has signaled he'd like to cut taxes, and tasked a tax commission co-chaired by former governor George Pataki and former comptroller Carl McCall with creating a specific plan to reduce the state's tax burden. Its report is expected next month. Already, though, legislators and interest groups are publicly lobbying it in an effort to affect, or at least pre-spin, its eventual recommendations.

During the interview, Camara stressed Cuomo's past and ongoing support for other items on the Caucus' agenda, and portrayed the Independent Democratic Conference as the principal stumbling block. In 2011, caucus members lobbied Cuomo to extend an expiring income tax surcharge on top rate-payers, which, in large part, he eventually did.