NOTE: This story was updated to include new data on “donor states.”

 

Gov. Chris Sununu called out New York’s Democratic governor over his taxpayer-hostage demand for additional federal funding during a combative change on CNBC’s Squawk Box Thursday morning.

During a discussion of the new Biden administration and its COVID-19 policy, Sununu was asked what he’s hoping to see.

“Flexibility. Trust me, states know how to do it better than the federal government does it,” Sununu said. “That’s the key word I think Republicans and Democrats are looking for out of the Biden administration.”

Then Sununu turned the conversation toward Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Governors can manage — most can, anyway. I’m not looking for big handouts from the government. I know Governor Cuomo is saying that ‘if I don’t get $15 billion, I’m raising taxes.’ Most states are not in that position. Here in New Hampshire we’re cutting taxes across the board. We have a very strong economy, We’ve cut our COVID numbers. It’s not easy. You gotta manage.”

Sununu’s slapdown of Cuomo sparked a backlash from CNBC host Andrew Ross Sorkin.

“I’m a New Yorker, so I took offense,” Sorkin said. “Why did you just take a shot at the governor of New York for asking for money at a time when clearly New York has been harder hit than, for example, your own state.” And, Sorkin added, “New York is a quote-unquote ‘donor state’ in terms of federal taxes into the system and your own state is a taker.”

Sununu pushed right back: “The citizens of New York pay 60, 70 percent more in taxes than the citizens of New Hampshire. And guess what? They’re leaving New York in droves, the businesses and families.  They’re all coming to places like New Hampshire. And if the only answer for your governor is to say, ‘I’m coming with my hand out, give me a $15 billion or I’ll raise taxes, to give that type of threat on behalf of his own citizens….That’s not leadership, that’s pathetic!”

Sorkin continued to insist Sununu was unfairly attacking Cuomo’s demands for additional federal COVID-19 funds because of the Granite State’s status as a state that receives more federal dollars than its citizens pay.

“With respect, the state of New Hampshire has had its hand out for years. You’ve been taking money from New York and California for years. And now you want to recommend what the governor of New York should be doing?

“There are a lot of challenges in the state of New York, but in the giver and taker situation, it’s empirical who’s giving and who’s taking,” Sorkin said.

In fact, the data on New Hampshire’s status as a “donor” or “recipient” state is unclear. In their “Donor States 2020” report, World Population Review says both New Hampshire and New York are among “the ten donor states with the largest negative balance of payments per capita (the biggest givers).” New York taxpayers pay $1,792 more per capita, while Granite Staters are $234 in the hole.

But Sorkin provided NHJournal with more recent data from the Rockefeller Institute showing New Hampshire does receive more in federal money than its residents pay in federal taxes. However, that report also shows New Hampshire was a “donor state” as recently as 2016.

Meanwhile, a Wallethub study from June 2020 analyzing various tax and revenue data, including tax receipts and federal contracts among others, found New York is more dependent on the federal government than is the Granite State.

“The whole ‘taker’ argument is dubious,” says John Kartch of Americans for Tax Reform. “Who cares that a bunch of senior citizens moved to Florida and collect Social Security after working and paying taxes their whole life?”

Cuomo has been a popular target for conservatives, who see a glaring double-standard between the Democratic governor’s poor performance in handling the COVID-19 crisis and the glowing media coverage he’s received. Cuomo was one of a handful of governors who intentionally sent COVID-positive patients back to his state’s nursing homes in the early days of the pandemic. As a result, New York has a dismal record on nursing home deaths, even with a reporting system that doesn’t include LTCF residents who die in hospitals in their totals.

Now, with the second-highest death rate per capita in the country, Cuomo has announced he will raise taxes and reduce spending if Congress doesn’t send $15 billion in unrestricted funds.

He also wants Congress to repeal a Trump-era cap on deductions for state and local taxes—known as SALT—at $10,000. Critics note this would shift some of New York’s state tax burden onto lower-tax states like New Hampshire.

“I’m looking at cutting taxes in New Hampshire. If he [Cuomo] can’t manage like most governors have done … he’s missed the boat completely,” Sununu said.

“I’m not trying to take a shot at Andy. But the fact is we all have to pay for that [federal funding]. And that’s something I don’t think Washington understands.”

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