President Trump raises abortion, fracking issues during tax talk with Andrew Cuomo
ALBANY – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled Tuesday to the White House to pitch President Donald Trump on repealing the federal cap on state and local tax deductions, a measure Cuomo has railed against for more than a year.
Trump, in turn, pitched Cuomo back.
In an Oval Office meeting, the Republican president urged the Democratic governor of his home state to lift the state's ban on large-scale hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, according to a statement from the White House.
And he criticized New York's new law bolstering abortion rights in the state, which cemented a woman's right to have a late-term abortion if her health or life in endangered or the fetus isn't viable.
"The President discussed economic growth opportunities for the State of New York, including helping lower energy prices throughout the entire Northeast by allowing low-cost, American energy to thrive with fracking and pipeline systems," Judd Deere, a White House deputy press secretary, said in a statement.
"The two also discussed the need to update America’s outdated infrastructure system. And, the President raised his concerns to Governor Cuomo about Democrats’ support of late term abortions.”
Cuomo pushes back
Cuomo requested the meeting last week after Trump signaled last week he may be open to changes to the tax measure, known as the SALT cap.
In a radio interview Tuesday evening, Cuomo said Trump was indeed open to making changes to the tax law and suggested he may put together a package of changes at a later date.
He suggested Trump only brought up the fracking and abortion issues because the Republican "always throws the same political pitch" and "governs by division."
"He met with a Democratic governor so they felt constrained to reiterate his divisions with the Democrats," Cuomo said on WCBS-AM.
$10,000 SALT cap
The meeting came as Cuomo tries to rally Democratic states and lawmakers to fight against the SALT cap, which was a key provision that helped fund cuts in the Republicans' 2017 tax-reform plan.
The cap allows taxpayers to deduct no more than $10,000 in state and local taxes on their federal returns each year. Previously, taxpayers' state and local deductions were unlimited.
The measure primarily affects higher-income earners in high-tax states, such as New York.
The governor has railed against the measure, calling it an unfair attack on Democratic states, which tend to be more highly taxed and are disproportionately hurt by the measure.
He's largely blamed a $2.3 billion state income-tax revenue shortfall on the cap, though others have pointed to Wall Street volatility.
In the radio interview, Cuomo said Trump's team would have to figure out how to find additional revenue if the SALT cap is repealed.
"Their problem is they used the money that they took from New York to finance their tax cut, so now they would have to find additional funding the money they stole from New York, in my opinion," Cuomo said.
Hope for repeal?
An interview of Trump last week by regional reporters first gave Cuomo some hope the president is open to revisiting the issue, which helped fund the slate of tax-reform measures approved by the GOP.
In the interview, Trump said he had discussed the issue with people who have raised concerns about the cap.
"I’d be open to talking about it," Trump said, according to a transcript. "There are some people talking to me about this. I’m open to thinking about that."
Cuomo said Trump reiterated he is open to considering changes to the SALT cap, perhaps as part of some larger reform.
He said Larry Kudlow, the Trump-appointed director of the National Economic Council, also attended the meeting and suggested he was putting together a package of proposed changes to the tax law.
According to the White House's statement Tuesday, Trump listened to Cuomo's pitch on the SALT cap but talked up the positive impacts of the 2017 tax law, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
He also pointed to the high taxes in New York, which Republicans contend should be the focus, rather than the SALT cap.
"The President reiterated the negative impact that high taxes in states like New York have on hardworking families and job creators," Deere said in his statement.
Cuomo pushed back, repeating a line he is fond of saying: "I have lowered taxes in the state of New York. Everyone pays a lower tax rate than the day I took office.”
Criticism isn't new
Trump's criticism of New York's abortion and hydrofracking policies are not new.
Cuomo's administration officially banned high-volume hydrofracking in late 2014, arguing that the potential harmful effects of the technique used to help recover natural gas and oil outweighed the economic benefits.
Trump had weighed a possible run for governor that year, calling on the state to open its doors to the oil-and-gas industry. He reiterated that call during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Last week, Trump singled out New York lawmakers — but not Cuomo himself — for criticism in his State of the Union address, knocking them for cheering the January passage of the Reproductive Health Act.
The measure, which helped spark a renewed national debate on abortion, cemented Roe v. Wade abortion rights in state law, broadened the type of health-care practitioners that can perform the procedure and removed penalties for illegal abortions from the state's criminal code.
Cuomo criticized Trump's record on environmental issues and abortion, painting him as a threat to the environment and a woman's right to choose.
"He wants to roll back Roe v. Wade ... and take us back to a time where women couldn't get an abortion legally," Cuomo said. "We in New York state have legalized a woman's right to choose, so we have a total difference of opinion on that."
Chance for change?
Senate Republicans, who control Congress' upper chamber, have signaled they have no plans to revisit the SALT provision.
A spokesman for Senate Finance Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said high-tax states should look to lower their tax burden rather than look to Washington to change the law.
"The SALT deduction is a federal subsidy for states to raise taxes on their residents without political consequence," Grassley spokesman Michael Zona said in a statement last week.
Cuomo said Monday he believes Democratic states may have a better shot at getting the SALT cap repealed now that Democrats control the U.S. House.
He's also hopeful the issue could get an airing if Congress has to take up any changes to the tax bill.
"It is vital for New York state," Cuomo said.