Michael Caputo Vs. The Tea Party Battle Over Andrew Cuomo's Fiscal Policy

Michael Caputo
Recently, some controversy erupted over a letter written by Carl Paladino's former campaign manager, Michael Caputo. He presented a letter that he intended to around 10,000 like  minded New Yorkers addressing Andrew Cuomo's sudden case of  'Fiscal Conservatism'. He discussed this letter at length with colleagues, than again at a private Tea Party gathering in Oneonta, NY. In the letter he asks for New Yorker's to stand behind Cuomo's policies, even if you can't stand behind him. Some New York Tea Party leaders felt that this letter was in poor taste, and some went so far as to call it a betrayal against the Tea Party.

L-R:Gary Perry, Sheryl Thomas, Al Belardinelli
I was present at the even in Oneonta, where close to 60 Tea Party and other 'Liberty' group leaders met in a relaxed setting to discuss unifying the parties in a way that does not lead to crushed ego's and loss of  individual identity. While we were able to agree on most issues, including the prospect of unity, occasionally one of the speakers would spark a heated debate by having a slightly different view on a particular topic. All in all the event amounted to some solid networking, and hopefully laid the framework for New York liberty groups to unify to have greater success in the upcoming elections.

I have spoken to event organizer Al Belardinelli, and to Michael Caputo. Both men feel strongly about their positions, and knowing, and  respecting both of these men, I decided to reserve judgment and let you the reader decide. Below is the letter Michael Caputo released. I will also include links to a New York Times article that mentions the letter and the Oneonta event, and a link to another article that features rebuttals from Mr. Belardinelli, Sheryl Thomas of Orange Sullivan 9/12 and Team Watch New York, and  co-organizer Gary Perry.

Caputo logo
January 31, 2011

Dear Fellow New Yorker:

First, please accept my family's wishes for a happy and prosperous new year. As Carl Paladino's former campaign manager, I know the campaigns of 2010 were exhausting for all of us. I wanted to drop you a note of thanks for your support for Carl's candidacy.

We lost at the polls, but we might still see a policy victory: today, Governor Andrew Cuomo is talking like a fiscal conservative. His ideological shift - if it is for real - can be attributed to two factors: New York's economic reality and the chorus of grassroots protest.

I am writing you today because it may be up to the grassroots to deliver conservative fiscal reform that can cut our taxes and save our State.

So far, Gov. Cuomo has proposed a series of reforms that sound an awful lot like Carl Paladino:

  • An annual cap on the growth of local and school district property taxes at two percent, or 120 percent of the inflation rate, whichever is lower. (http://nyti.ms/e4seDy)
  • Layoffs of 10,000 to 12,000 state workers, about five percent of the workforce. (http://on.wsj.com/es4ohu)
  • A "storm" of real budget cuts, the first in far too long. One reporter thinks Cuomo "would exceed the $7 billion in cuts proposed by Carl Paladino." (http://bloom.bg/hBJVRX)
  • Closing a $10 billion budget deficit with no new taxes, fees, or borrowing. (http://nydn.us/ep0uqc)

Sure, Gov. Cuomo is "talking the talk." But will he "walk the walk" of fiscal responsibility? We'll soon find out. His State of the State speech will be televised on Tuesday, February 1st and budget talks will begin thereafter.

But we already have some indications of his resolve.

This month, Cuomo stood his ground on the property tax cap, resisting Democrat Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's push to link the cap to reauthorizing a state law controlling rents for a million New York City apartments.

Cuomo said no. He wants the two issues dealt with "on their own merits," and he's right.

Cuomo has no draft legislation yet, but the Albany horse-trading has begun. Any tax cap bill must include mandate relief, and mandates are Speaker Silver's lifeblood. The Governor must make deep, unilateral cuts to major programs, such as Medicaid, in his first budget proposals. If he compromises and excludes bloated mandates, a tax cap will be only a fig leaf to hide this administration's shortcomings.

More leaves worth reading: an onerous State income tax surcharge on New Yorkers making more than $200,000 - worth more than a billion in state revenues annually - is set to expire. Much to the chagrin of Speaker Silver, Cuomo insists the surcharge must sunset, otherwise it's "a new tax and therefore I'm against it."

I know - you really have to pinch yourself. What's next, a pit bull and a baseball bat?

Like you, I oppose the Democrat Party's progressive agenda. Like you, I fought like Hell to stop Andrew Cuomo's campaign for Governor of New York State. I don't much like him; I'm still angry about his dirty campaign against Carl.

But, at the risk of a localized lightning strike, I must admit the Governor's early fiscal moves are conservative, responsible and absolutely necessary.

I think we all agree: we don't need tax caps - we need tax CUTS. That was a key contrast in Cuomo v. Paladino, and we must never stop calling for tax cuts. But if the new Governor is unable to show strength when cutting spending, slashing mandates and enacting a property tax cap, he will never work for tax cuts.

"A property tax cap is the place to start," said Sandy Parker, president and CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance, and a co-founder of Unshackle Upstate. "It forces the conversation that has been put off for far too long."

Ms. Parker is right. So here is the question that has kept me awake at night: should Carl's grassroots supporters cross battle lines and help Cuomo push a conservative fiscal agenda?

If you are engaged in the political arena only to advance the Republican Party, you might say no.

If you are active in politics because you desire a fiscally responsible government, you must say YES.

I am a die-hard Republican who fought in the trenches for Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Carl Paladino. I'm as conservative as you can get, and last year I spent most of my time criticizing Andrew Cuomo.

It is starting to look like I may end up eating a few of my words. But I would happily sit for that meal if the Governor delivers real fiscal reform.

In fact, I am writing to tell you I will work to push Cuomo's fiscal agenda.

Right away, I will contact my legislators and ask them to vote for the two percent property tax cap, but only if it includes mandate relief for local governments. I'll ask them to cut spending, not raise taxes, to balance the budget. And I am writing to encourage you to do the same.

Nobody asked me to do this; nobody has hired me to help. Just because Carl Paladino lost doesn't make far more responsible fiscal policies any less urgent. I am doing this on my own accord, at some risk to my conservative credentials.

If you want to stop the rocketing rise of your taxes, I invite you to join me and start by backing budget cuts and real mandate relief under a two percent property tax cap.

Please telephone, email and FAX your New York State legislators demanding budget cuts and a property tax cap with fundamental mandate relief. You can easily track down your representatives' contact information here: http://nymap.elections.state.ny.us/nysboe/.

I also urge you to talk with your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, your grassroots activist friends, and every New Yorker you come in contact with in the days ahead. Tell them we have a decent chance that spending cuts - not tax hikes - will balance our budget and there's a chance for a property tax cap that reigns in runaway State mandates. But only if they contact their legislators TODAY.

Crossing party lines is what separates partisans from ideologues. I'm a lifelong loyal Republican, but New York State is dying for tax relief. Spending cuts are first steps and a property tax cap is just a start, but if we don't start today we'll never achieve our shared goals of broader fiscal responsibility.

Tax and mandate relief: it's what we believe in. So let's get off the sidelines fight for it. Thank you for your time and consideration of this vital matter.

Michael R. Caputo
Buffalo, NY

PS: The lines are being drawn right now in the battle to save our State. Please take a few minutes out of your day to gain control of your tax burden: contact your New York State Assemblymember and Senator today via Web at http://nymap.elections.state.ny.us/nysboe/. I've pasted an example letter below:


Assemblymember/Senator NAME
New York State Legislature
Albany, New York

Dear New York Assemblymember/Senator NAME:

New York State faces the most serious financial crisis in our state's history. The upstate economy is in especially bad shape and people are leaving our state to find jobs and opportunity elsewhere.

We have the highest taxes and the largest health care, energy and education costs of any state in the nation. Today New York is unaffordable for the average worker and unattractive to business. On top of these problems, our state faces a huge budget deficit because our government has spent beyond its means for a decade.

I did not support Andrew Cuomo in this past election, but as Governor he has announced a good plan to gain control of our state finances and fix our economy. I know he cannot get conservative fiscal reform through a progressive legislature alone. He needs citizen support - and he needs you and the other members of the state legislature to back his plans.

The time has come to fix what is broken in Albany. As your constituent, I hope and expect you will actively support spending cuts to close the $10 billion budget deficit - no new taxes, fees, or borrowing to balance. I also urge you to lock in mandate relief as a property tax cap requirement - any cap is a sham without mandate relief.

We all need to work together to get New York back on track. With your leadership, we can create new jobs, control spending and grow our economy. Please keep me informed on what you are doing to accomplish the two objectives noted above.

Thank you for your time and service.


New York Times: Ex-Paladino Aide Now Backing Cuomo Fiscal Plan
The Daily Star: Area Tea Party Supporters Express Anger Over Email

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