In the category of no good deed goes unpunished, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that health care workers from around the country who came to his state in response to his plea for help with the COVID-19 outbreak, like those with Samaritan’s Purse, will be taxed.
At his daily coronavirus briefing, Cuomo placed the blame with the federal government, claiming that President Donald Trump and the Republicans are blocking aid to states.
Asked if he planned to waive the withholding of state income taxes for health care workers who came from out of state, the governor said, “We’re not in a position to provide any more subsidies right now because we have a $13 billion deficit.”
Doctors, nurses and other health care workers put their lives on the line to go to New York to help, and they’ll be forced to pay taxes in New York, even on income they may have made from their home states but were paid while in New York.
“So there’s a lot of good things I would like to do,” Cuomo continued, “and if we get federal funding, we can do, but it would be irresponsible for me to sit here looking at a $13 billion deficit and say I’m gonna spend more money, when I can’t even pay the essential services,” he added.
“We are in dire financial need,” said Cuomo.
“Our financial comptroller called me, and he said, ‘Do you know that all of you are going to be liable for New York state income tax?'” said Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the organization.
“I said, ‘What?'” Isaacs continued. “[The comptroller] said, ‘Yeah, there’s a law. If you work in New York State for more than 14 days, you have to pay state income tax.'”
“I didn’t know that,” Isaacs said.
“What we’re even more concerned about than the money,” he continued, “is the bureaucracy, and the paperwork, and I think that once that’s unleashed … once you start filing that, you have to do that for like a whole year or something.”
Samaritan’s Purse confirmed in an email to The Western Journal that the organization is “withholding taxes in compliance with New York state tax law.”
Later in his briefing, Cuomo claimed the federal government hasn’t “provided any aid to state and local governments. Why is that important? It is the state and local governments that fund police, fire, education, teachers, healthcare workers.”
NPR reported in March that funding for the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, otherwise known as the CARES Act, included $339.8 billion for state and local governments.
The National Conference of State Legislatures broke the bill down further, noting it included $150 billion for state and local governments directly, as well as $30 billion earmarked for state education spending.
Further, the legislation provides a $500 billion lending fund for businesses, cities and states.
That’s not chump change.
The Trump administration has also made it clear that the funds sent to states can be used to pay for first responders, like police and firefighters, and others on the front line in the coronavirus fight.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is among those who have said they are not willing to support a “blue state” bailout.
“We’re not interested in rescuing badly run states from the mistakes they made, completely unrelated to the coronavirus,” he told Fox News host Neil Cavuto last Wednesday.
Trump agrees with that view.
“I don’t think the Republicans want to be in a position where they bail out states that are, that have been mismanaged over a long period of time,” he said in an interview with the New York Post on Monday.
GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana has offered a reasonable compromise, saying it’s time to “take a breath” on new spending, but ease some restrictions on the monies already allocated to the states to allow them to plug budget gaps.
In Louisiana, the senator said the amount the federal government has already allocated in coronavirus legislation is between $2.5 and $3 billion.
“Over in the Senate, it’s like a Labor Day mattress sale,” Kennedy told Cavuto in a Wednesday interview. “You got all kinds of bills flying around. Let’s give $500 billion to the states. ‘No,’ Speaker Pelosi says, ‘Let’s give a trillion.’
“Let me tell you Neil, we spent three trillion dollars. That takes my breath away. We’re going to run out of digits here pretty soon,” he added.
We’re going to run out of digits to measure America’s deficit.
Instead of spending trillions more in taxpayer money right now, let’s give flexibility to state and local governments to use existing #CARESAct funds to weather this storm without unreasonable handcuffs. pic.twitter.com/cWj48L4qZS
— John Kennedy (@SenJohnKennedy) May 6, 2020
Kennedy believes if McConnell puts Kennedy’s bill — which would allow local and state governments to use existing CARES Act funds to “weather this storm” — to a vote it will pass, and at least in the short term address the concerns of governors like Cuomo.
The New York governor is clearly trying to pressure Trump and Senate Republicans to open the spigot for tens of billions to flow to the Empire State.
Kennedy’s counsel is sound. The country needs a break from spending.
Finally, New York needs to get a clue regarding taxing the health care workers who came to the rescue in the state’s hour of need.
When you ask a neighbor for help because your house is on fire, you don’t turn around and charge him for the pizza you provided after he helped you put out the flames.
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