THE ISSUE Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tapped a former governor and a former comptroller to lead a commission charged with finding ways to reduce New York’s tax burden.
OUR VIEW With the state’s economy at stake, Cuomo must find ways to see that the best tax-cutting ideas from the group become reality.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appointed a commission to find ways to reduce taxes in New York, and he’s looking to a couple of respected former state leaders to lead the charge.
Former Gov. George Pataki and former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall probably already know, or at least suspect, most of the reasons why New York continues to have one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. Some of those reasons are too many layers of local governments providing duplicative services, as well as unaffordable pension programs. That’s particularly true in the education ranks — where many teachers and administrators retire at the ripe old age of 55 — as well as higher-income public employees.
Then there are the mandates the state places on localities. These requirements aren’t necessarily bad — some are laudable programs such as special education for pre-schoolers — it’s how they are funded, with locals picking up most or all of the tab. In fact, counties and local towns are in the process right now of forming budgets for the coming year, and mandated expenses such as pension contributions and health care costs are eating up more and more revenue each year.
While property taxes are a big piece of the pie, said Cuomo, there are other areas — corporate and personal income among them — that negatively impact the state’s economy. The result: an exodus of people, most of them upstate, to places with lower taxes and greater job opportunities.
There is much to be done on that front. The Tax Foundation, which testified before a state Senate panel in mid-September on taxes and economic development, ranks New York dead last among 50 states when it comes to its business tax climate.
While the state has relatively moderate corporate taxes, said the foundation, New York has the worst individual income tax, the sixth-worst unemployment insurance taxes and the sixth-worst property taxes. While there are many more factors that come into play when it comes to economic competitiveness — among them excessive state regulations — the numbers cement a reputation that New York is not business-friendly, despite snazzy commercials purporting the contrary.
Can New York — which has made some progress on the tax front, with the property tax cap and other cost-cutting initiatives — improve its standing?
The commission, which will present its findings to Cuomo in December, will no doubt offer plenty of options for the Legislature to consider. Let’s hope the commission takes on the most prickly issues affecting taxes, such as retirement benefits, and that those ideas get a fair shake in the state Legislature, which is certain to feel the heat from the state’s powerful unions on changes they feel would threaten their members’ benefits.
Cuomo, who has been highly effective at brokering deals with the Legislature’s Democrats and Republicans, is the ideal man to help turn the tax-cutting recommendations into action. The need for reform in New York is too great for this effort to fail.