As election day nears, it appears that crime wave hysteria may propel Republican Lee Zeldin into the governor’s office. As The Indypendent recently reported, it’s uncertain how much of his stridently pro-mass incarceration agenda Zeldin can implement.
While crime spikes affect voters in some neighborhoods far more than others, inflation is something that hits everyone. But in general, Zeldin’s economic proposals have not received much media scrutiny.
While Gov. Kathy Hochul’s moderate track record and platform may generate little enthusiasm among left-wing activists, Zeldin’s blueprint should set off alarm bells.
For starters, Zeldin has vowed to cut taxes “across the board” in order to offset inflation. During the late October debate, he declared that such cutbacks in revenue would be accompanied by a cap on state spending.
Later in the debate, Hochul told Zeldin that “cutting taxes is all you talk about. Where are you going to get revenue for education and investments in child care and paid family leave?”
While Zeldin did not get a chance to respond, expanding social spending is not on his agenda. Elsewhere on the campaign trail, he has stated that his first target would be Medicaid, which serves the state’s large low-income population.
Zeldin’s agenda indeed inverts the “class warfare” fears spouted by conservative Democrats like Mayor Eric Adams in recent years. Rather than redistribute resources downward, Zeldin is mobilizing an assault by middle and upper-class voters on the state’s large safety net.
Income tax annually provides over 20% of the state’s total budget, which is currently $220 billion. Medicaid makes up over 10% of spending in the current year. While it would be naïve to suggest that there’s no fraud or overbilling by providers in the state’s Medicaid system, Zeldin is promising a major reduction in the program’s overall budget. As seen during the Cuomo years, the state’s chief executive has significant power during the late March budget negotiations.
“We can actually go line by line into the many billions of dollars,” Zeldin told Upstate business leaders regarding Medicaid spending in late September. The “biggest ticket item,” Zeldin said, is non-profit entities that receive Medicaid while connected to for-profit providers. How much this or any other cutback will affect health-care service delivery to the state’s nearly 7.5 million Medicaid recipients is not clear.
Asked by Politico recently to explain how he can offset the reductions in revenue created by his proposed tax reductions, Zeldin said he would “reverse the state’s ban on the safe extraction of natural gas and approving new pipelines” in order to produce “a lot of jobs and revenue.” Zeldin would thus tie the state’s budget to climate destruction.
Once in office, a pledge to reduce state income taxes would become a powerful weapon for Zeldin. Any opponents of pipelines or proponents of social spending will be presented as taking “money out-of-the pockets of hard-working New Yorkers.” The New York Post will racialize the outrage with frequent profiles of “welfare cheats.”
This past summer, anti-poverty activists launched high-profile protests in the Hamptons and elsewhere calling on Hochul to tax the rich, something she has vowed not to do. Bankrolled by cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder’s $11 million, Zeldin is now on the verge of changing the conversation entirely.
Rather than fight for an expansion of social spending via universal child care and single-payer health care, left-wing Democrats in Albany now will be forced to fight simply to retain the status quo. If it happens, the Zeldin era is going to be really ugly.