WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) – On a stopover in Watertown Friday, Republican candidate for governor Harry Wilson pledged the biggest tax cut in state history.
Wilson is one of four Republicans running for the right to challenge Democratic governor Kathy Hochul in November.
“In my first budget, we will deliver a significant cut in spending, that will deliver the biggest tax cut in the history of the state,” Wilson said.
“We will go from being the highest taxed state in the country to being the lowest taxed state in the northeast, and make our state competitive again.”
His pledge to cut taxes and spending is a cornerstone of Wilson’s campaign, and is featured prominently in his advertising.
Wilson said he will also reduce the cost of living for New Yorkers by cutting regulations affecting energy, food and housing, which – with the tax cuts – “will add several thousand dollars a year into their (taxpayer) pockets, that I believe should be there.”
He cites the state of Massachusetts as a useful model for what New York could be.
“They spend one third less on Medicaid per capita than New York does, they spend one third less on a bunch of other programs, and yet they have the best public schools in the country, the best public health in the country.
“We are dramatically worse, as you know, on both those metrics. And the question is why.
“It’s because we don’t have any accountability. I believe in providing government services that are world class at the lowest possible cost.”
In a Republican Party dominated by former President Trump, Wilson stands out for his non-confrontational tone.
Of Trump, he says “There are a lot of things I agree with the president on, some things I disagree with him on.” And he declines, in general, to spend much time criticizing his political opponents.
Democrats have a huge voter advantage in New York, more than two and a half million, but Wilson believes his upstate roots and his business career as a specialist in turning around failing companies will give him enough votes to win the Republican primary June 28, and then go on to beat Governor Hochul.
“I’m the only Republican in the last 20 years who’s come close to winning a statewide office,” he points out. In 2010, he ran well against – but did not beat – Democrat Tim DiNapoli for comptroller.
In his TV ads, Wilson has promised to “fire” district attorneys who don’t prosecute violent crimes, and to not pay state legislators who are unwilling to cut spending and taxes.
District attorneys are elected officials, but Wilson says the state’s constitution gives the governor the power to fire them under special circumstances.
“They’re talking about not prosecuting armed robbery. How is that serving the public? It’s not acceptable. And if that’s the road a prosecutor goes down, I absolutely have the obligation to do what the constitution allows me to do,” he said.
Wilson said DAs who don’t “fulfill their oath of office” are subject to removal.
Under state law, if the budget is not approved by April 1, legislators don’t get paid until it is approved. Wilson said he would propose a state budget with cuts.
“I know the legislature’s not gonna approve it. Then we will be in a fight for months, over that. And they won’t get paid,” he said.
Besides Wilson, Long Island congressman Lee Zeldin, former Westchester county executive Rob Astorino and former Trump administration official Andrew Giuliani are seeking the Republican nomination. The June 28 primary will decide who goes on to face Hochul in November.