Thankfully,the New York Post reminded us this week of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's "Read My Lips" moment on the 2010 campaign trail, where he said:
"No new taxes. Period . . . You are kidding yourself if you think you can be one of the highest-taxed states in the nation, have a reputation for being anti-business -- and have a rosy economic future."
According to Jeremy Smerd of Crain's New York, Cuomo made it clear to reporters during his campaign that extending the 2009 "millionaires tax" could be considered nothing but a tax increase:
"I was against it at the time, and I still am," he said this summer. "It was supposed to sunset. If it doesn't sunset, it's a [new] tax."
As many suspected, Cuomo's pledge was no more than campaign bluster: in 2011 the Governor backed extending a 'temporary' tax hike for millionaires. This, despite the fact that New York is the highest state taxed State in America.
Raising taxes is the third rail of American politics - get caught doing it, and your re-election opponent will make you wear it on the campaign trail. So, Cuomo's supporters and the Democrat machine told anyone listening that the budget included no new taxes. Of course, this was patently false and even the most reliable Cuomo lover in the Albany press corps was skeptical. That didn't stop the apologists from claiming the Governor's no new taxes pledge was intact.
Fast forward to today, and Cuomo has done it again: he extended the "millionaires tax" into 2017, affixing another new tax to his record. Reliably, his emissaries are out claiming that extending an old tax into a new term is not a new tax. This time, solid reporters like Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times are having none of that and Cuomo's tax pledge bust will hang around his neck during re-election like he's President George HW Bush circa 1988.
That broken pledge cost President Bush his 1992 re-election, despite a pre-election approval rating of 89 percent - a number that makes Cuomo look like a mere mortal. I know, I was there: I led Bush's national campaign TV and radio news outreach.
It's no wonder Cuomo's defenders are out in force, pushing back hard against the tax hiker label. But The Wall Street Journal nailed that coffin shut today:
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said he and lawmakers "are cutting taxes rates more than we are increasing" them, but that is only true for the two fiscal years the budget covers. Later, in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the tax-increase extensions' value will exceed that of the small-business and middle-class tax cuts, according to budget observers.
So, that argument is settled: Cuomo is a tax hiker. But Kaplan made an even more important point that eclipses his broken pledge: somewhere, Cuomo's tax reform pledge got lost, too:
The timing of Mr. Cuomo's move was unexpected because the governor had promised to seek a lon-term overhaul of the state's tax code - not another short-term extension - when he negotiated the tax rate changes in 2011.
Mr. Cuomo did not appoint a promised tax commission until December; his office said it had given no timetable to the commission, but a person familiar with the commission's work said it did not plan to report back to the governor until late this year.
Check the calendar: Cuomo's got a year to make substantial progress on tax reform or his GOP opponent will certainly make him wear that profound failure. It took him longer than that to pack the panel with his pals.
Cuomo's approval rating has been dropping like a stone since the beginning of 2013, when he passed his constitutionally questionable SAFE Act and it became increasingly obvious he never intends to allow fracking. A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed his job approval rating at 55 percent - down 19 points since December - and he has not made moves to stop the nosedive.
Still, I know many politicians who would swap their cutest interns for Cuomo's popularity problem.
Will Andrew Cuomo go by the way of George HW Bush into premature retirement? There was much more afoot in our 1992 campaign, including a third party candidate who ate our lunch. A similar meltdown is not likely in the bluest state in the Union. But, combined with his profound lurch to the left on guns, abortion, fracking, and more, Cuomo's broken tax pledge may drive his re-election numbers far south of the remarkable 63 percent he logged in 2010.
And every political operative worth a listen will tell you a precipitous popularity dip in his home state can scuttle any Governor's presidential opportunity before it begins.