New York state will take Washington to court to challenge the new Republican tax overhaul, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, calling the new law an unconstitutional assault on states’ rights and New York in particular. The lawsuit is one of several ways Cuomo, a potential 2020 presidential contender, is positioning New York to lead the opposition to President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans. He’s also calling for the state to push back on federal attempts to curb environmental protections, immigration and health care spending. “Our federal government is working to roll back so much of what we have done,” he said in his annual state of the state address to lawmakers in Albany. “We cannot, we must not let those things happen… In the immortal words of John Paul Jones, we have not yet begun to fight, my friends.” The new tax law caps a deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000, a move that will increase federal tax liabilities for many homeowners in high-tax states like New York. Cuomo says the change could increase tax liabilities for some New Yorkers by as much as 25 percent, potentially prompting some to leave for cheaper states and making the state less competitive economically.
While many top Republicans in New York object to the provision too, Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island, was skeptical about Cuomo’s plans for a lawsuit. “I don’t see a legal basis,” he told reporters, adding that Cuomo is too focused on policies coming out of Washington instead of improving the state’s own business climate by controlling spending and creating jobs. Cuomo also announced plans to sue opioid manufacturers for allegedly violating rules on the monitoring and reporting of suspicious drug shipments. He said any money obtained from the legal action would go toward efforts to fight the scourge of addiction. “They pumped these pills into society and they created addictions,” Cuomo said. “Like the tobacco industry they killed thousands… We will make them pay.” New York faces a $4 billion deficit, and this year’s agenda from Cuomo was relatively light on expensive, ambitious programs. Instead, the governor proposed several measures prompted by recent news, including a new, uniform sexual harassment policy for state and local governments prompted by the recent national attention on sexual misconduct in the workplace. Cuomo is also calling for new disclosure rules for online political ads, early voting and investments in water quality and renewable energy. Other proposals include one that would require people convicted of a domestic violence crime to surrender any firearms. Many of the governor’s new proposals are aimed squarely at Washington, and a federal government that he says is seeking to set back progress in New York when it comes to the economy, equality, health care and the environment. Cuomo cited recent accomplishments such as a higher minimum wage, free college tuition and paid family leave as an alternative to the policies emerging on the national level. Cuomo mentioned Trump by name only once, while discussing how diversity has benefited New York. Cuomo noted that the flag in the Oval Office bears the words “e pluribus unum” or “out of many, one.” “To find the way forward, the president only needs to turn around,” he said. Lawmakers began their 2018 session earlier in the day Wednesday. In addition to Cuomo’s ideas, they’re expected to consider several other high profile measures, including bills to authorize physician-assisted suicide. Cuomo says he’s also looking at changes to the state tax code in response to the federal overhaul. Details won’t be released until he unveils his state budget proposal later this month. A look at some of the measures he’s already announced: VOTING CHANGES: New Yorkers would be allowed to cast a vote up to 12 days before an election under Cuomo’s voting reform proposal. He also wants to change voter registration rules to allow for same-day registration and the automatic enrollment of new voters when they visit a motor vehicles office or other state agency. ONLINE POLITICAL ADS: Cuomo says voters deserve to know more about who is behind online political ads. His proposal would require ads to contain the name of the group paying for the content, and direct platforms like Facebook to maintain a public file containing greater information about campaign ads. STEWART AIRPORT UPGRADES: Cuomo is calling for a $34 million investment to upgrade, expand and modernize Stewart Airport, north of New York City, to handle more international flights DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime would have to surrender any firearms under another proposal from Cuomo. The governor’s proposal was drawn up following the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas, where Cuomo said the gunmen in each shooting had a record of violence against women or threatening violence against women. FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT: Cuomo wants to see New York state’s pension fund get out of investing in fossil fuels. BAIL: Cuomo has introduced legislation to eliminate the longstanding practice of requiring defendants to post monetary bail in misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases. He says it’s unfair, since it allows suspects with financial resources to go free while those without must wait in jail until their trials begin. Cuomo is proposing instead to release those defendants on their own recognizance or require them to check in with officials. Suspects accused of violent crimes or felonies could still be required to post bail to win release or be held without bail in some circumstances.