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New York Congressman Pushes to Restore SALT Tax Deductions

04/11/2021 | 05:14pm

By Jimmy Vielkind

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi has taken a leading role in fighting to restore a tax deduction that is important to people who live in and around New York City, and in doing so might be laying the groundwork for another gubernatorial run.

Mr. Suozzi, a Democrat who represents parts of Queens and Long Island, has said he won't support President Biden's planned infrastructure and tax package unless it contains language that would restore the full deductibility of state and local income and property taxes, or SALT.

That deduction -- which Mr. Suozzi and other state officials say is critical for people in high-cost, high-tax states such as New York -- was limited to $10,000 by the 2017 federal tax overhaul. While a majority of state residents pay lower federal income taxes as a result of the 2017 law, the new limits forced about a million New Yorkers to pay an additional $12 billion a year to the federal government, state officials estimate.

"SALT is an existential issue for us," Mr. Suozzi said in an interview. He said higher-income people will either leave the state or, if they have started working remotely since the pandemic, won't return. Mr. Suozzi said tax increases on millionaires enacted in last week's state budget were a bad idea -- especially at this time -- that could drive them out of New York.

The 58-year-old congressman has been making his case about SALT since 2017, but recently started reaching beyond his district. He appeared at a March 26 event in White Plains with freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones, a Democrat from Rockland County, and Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

Mr. Suozzi has also reached out to officials in upstate counties about holding similar events pushing for the removal of the SALT cap, people familiar with the talks said. A spokesman for the congressman said nothing has been scheduled. Mr. Suozzi attended a virtual fundraiser for Democrats in Erie County, which includes Buffalo, and last week endorsed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams's bid to be mayor of New York City.

Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University in Hempstead, remembered Mr. Suozzi complaining about the effect of high property taxes as the Nassau County executive during his unsuccessful 2006 campaign for governor.

"It's one of these issues that is absolutely perfect: If you win, you win big on behalf of not only your constituents but also your future prospects," Mr. Levy said. "Good government is the best politics. The question is, can he ride this to the governorship?"

Mr. Suozzi said during the interview that he was happy in Congress but, "obviously I've run for governor in the past and I think I'd be a good governor." He said he hasn't taken any formal steps to launch a campaign, adding: "Whenever I've tried to plan ahead, it never worked out ever. And the things I didn't plan are the things I ended up being successful at."

The congressman is stepping into the spotlight as Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's candidacy for a fourth term is being questioned by some lawmakers and political observers. Mr. Cuomo faces multiple investigations into allegations that he sexually harassed women on his staff and over his administration's handling of Covid-19 in nursing homes.

The governor has said he is cooperating with the probes and said the nursing-home policies were crafted to preserve hospital capacity. He has denied touching anyone inappropriately and apologized if his behavior made anyone uncomfortable.

Sixteen Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation, as well as U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have called on Mr. Cuomo to resign. Mr. Suozzi hasn't and said he believes the governor should be afforded due process.

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, who has rejected calls for his resignation, declined to comment for this column. Mr. Cuomo signed a letter with six governors asking Mr. Biden to repeal the SALT cap and said at a Wednesday press conference that doing so would blunt the impact of the newly enacted state tax increases.

Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science at Iona College in New Rochelle, said Mr. Suozzi would occupy a similar political lane as Mr. Cuomo, who is also a moderate, Italian-American man.

"And there's another fight to be had," she said. "Progressives feel they had to put up with Cuomo for so long, they are itching to have one of their own in office."

HOCHUL SPEAKS: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul faced the press corps Friday for the first time since the investigations into Mr. Cuomo's conduct were announced, and said she was waiting to see what they would yield before commenting further.

"There are a lot of answers that will be resolved in the impending months. There's a number of investigations under way -- I'm going to leave it at that," Ms. Hochul said on the Coney Island boardwalk in Brooklyn, where she joined other politicians to celebrate its reopening.

Ms. Hochul, a Democrat from Buffalo, has been treading lightly on Mr. Cuomo's situation for more than a month. She would become governor if Mr. Cuomo is impeached.

THE QUESTION: Who was the last sitting member of Congress to win the Democratic nomination for governor?

-- Know the answer? Send me an email.

THE LAST ANSWER: Mr. Cuomo was flanked by former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel when he ended his campaign for governor in 2002.

Katie Honan contributed to this article.

Write to Jimmy Vielkind at Jimmy.Vielkind@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-11-21 1914ET

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