Cuomo warns of new tax to offset GOP health care plan

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a solution for a $2.3 billion Medicaid cost shift included in both federal Republican health care plans: A new tax.

Cuomo suggested Monday the state may have to tack a new tax on to local property taxes if the Senate health care reform is approved, pointing in a provision in the measure that prevent the state from having counties pay for a share of Medicaid costs.

The Democratic governor's proposal came with a suggested name: The "Faso-Collins Federal Tax".

The name is in reference to Reps. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, Erie County, and John Faso, R-Kinderhook, Columbia County, the congressmen who crafted the county spending amendment Cuomo has spent weeks railing against. It was included in the House health care bill approved last month.
Cuomo's threat was laid out in a letter delivered Monday to the state's congressional delegation.

"The Faso-Collins shell game cuts $2.3 billion in federal funding to New York and will force every resident of this state to pay a 'Faso-Collins Federal Tax' added onto local property taxes to make up the difference to avoid decimation of our healthcare system," he wrote.

The amendment "amounts to nothing more than a political Ponzi scheme, and New Yorkers aren't fooled," Cuomo wrote.

County leaders have long railed against the Medicaid structure in New York, a rare state that requires counties to cover a share of costs associated with the joint federal-state health care program for the poor.

The federal government covers about half of Medicaid costs in New York, while the state chips in a little more than a third. New York City, which is not included in the Collins-Faso amendment, and the state's counties pick up the remaining 13 percent.

Medicaid is the counties' single largest cost in New York, which county leaders say helps drive up their property taxes.

Cuomo contends the state wouldn't be able to cover the county costs -- estimated to be about $2.3 billion a year -- if the Senate or House GOP's health care plan is approved. He has said the state would have to raise taxes to pick up the tab.

The governor's letter did not get specific when it came to the tax; It did not include any sort of indication of how much the tax would be.

New York Republicans immediately pushed back against Cuomo's threat Monday.

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican Party, said the governor's proposal is "flat out crazy." He said the amendment would allow counties to "significantly lower property taxes"

"Once again, (Cuomo) would rather stick his hand into the pocket of New Yorkers, who already pay the highest taxes in the nation, than get control of his spending," Cox said in a statement.

Collins accused Cuomo of "passing the buck on to hardworking New York families by proposing new taxes," noting the $2.3 billion is less than 2 percent of the state's $153 billion budget.

"If Governor Cuomo can’t find two percent savings in one of the most bloated state budgets in the country, perhaps it’s time for New Yorkers to hire someone who can," Collins said in a statement.

In his letter, Cuomo noted New York is a "donor state," meaning its residents pay out billions more in federal taxes each year than the state receives in federal funding.

The governor urged New York's congressional delegation to stop the GOP health care plan.

"If this bill passes, Faso, Collins and other Republican members of New York’s delegation who supported it will have to answer to the people of this state for it," Cuomo wrote. "For those in the delegation who supported this legislation, New Yorker's will remember that you were elected to serve them but instead fought to cut our funding and our vital healthcare services."

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