BOLTON LANDING, N.Y. — The dueling candidates for governor made their case to the New York business community Friday, with Republican nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Suffolk) one-upping Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul when it comes to one key issue.
“I personally am somebody who would be all in favor of there not even being an income tax in New York,” Zeldin said while speaking about sparking economic growth at the annual conference of the Business Council of New York State.
“But even if you’re reducing the income tax, it will be progress,” Zeldin added while highlighting business-friendly positions like lifting a state ban on the fracking of natural gas and curbing proposals to ban gas hook-ups in new buildings.
Hochul has cultivated ties to business leaders since she replaced disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year while drawing a red line on raising taxes on the wealthy with the left-leaning Democratic legislative supermajorities in Albany.
She also argued that her administration has actively pursued new investments in the state from daily calls with corporate execs to proposing controversial legislation that would promote superconductor manufacturing through billions in state tax subsidies.
“We made sure that we had 15% in reserves for that rainy day – or as we say in Buffalo – the ‘blizzard day,’” Hochul added about setting aside billions to cover future shortfalls with annual state operating expenses.
The two candidates leaned on favorite talking points as well, with Zeldin arguing that he would roll back bail reform amid rising crime while Hochul argued a controversial decision by the US Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade had transformed abortion into a matter of dollars and cents for her capitalist-minded audience.
“This is a state that respects the rights of all your workers. You will not have to spend your money to fly any of your women employees out of state for basic reproductive services,” Hochul added.
Zeldin, who aroused controversy months ago by suggesting he would appoint a pro-life health commissioner, downplayed the possibility of significant changes to state abortion policy while declining to categorically rule out executive actions on the topic if elected.
“I am not planning to roll back that law and that is both working through the legislature and via executive action,” he said while referencing the Reproductive Health Act that enshrined abortion rights in state law.
He said his campaign remains fixed on rolling back many of the controversial criminal justice reforms passed by Albany Democrats in recent years, including bail reform and limits on the use of solitary confinement.
/imZeldin has also campaigned hard in recent weeks against state efforts to tighten oversight over yeshivas following a blockbuster investigation by The New York Times.
“New Yorkers are hitting their breaking point. They feel like their wallet, their safety, their freedom, the quality of their kid’s education are under attack,” Zeldin told conference attendees Friday while bashing Hochul for refusing to debate him more than once.
While he remains down in the polls, he told business leaders Friday that he remains on track to win despite the odds — if only New Yorkers would give his candidacy a fresh look in the final stretch of the campaign.
“I just asked over the course of these next six-and-a-half weeks that you do absolutely everything in your power to do what in your heart you know is right,” Zeldin added.