George Pataki, the governor of New York from 1995 to 2006, is expected to announce the launch of his presidential campaign tomorrow. Pataki joins an already crowded Republican field and is expected to highlight his record as governor to win support. A review of Pataki’s record presents a question: which Pataki will be running for the presidency?
Pataki’s first several years in office showed promise, from a small-government perspective. He proclaimed that his administration was “overthrowing all the unworkable liberal abstractions of the past and replacing them with a revolution of conservative ideas.” His actions matched his claims. His first two budgets included a number of spending cuts. New York general fund spending decreased five percent in his first year. He eliminated 12,000 of the state’s 200,000 government jobs. In total, spending was cut by $2 billion. Pataki coupled his spending cuts with tax cuts. He cut the personal income tax by 25 percent
His actions during those two years earned him an “A” on Cato’s Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors in 1996. The authors of the report said that Pataki “had far and away the most impressive fiscal record in his first two years” among the 20 new governors covered in the report.
Pataki seems to have lost his zeal for fiscal restraint after his first two years. He supported a 55 cent increase to the cigarette tax and followed it with another 39 cent increase in the tax. He pushed for a $1.5 billion bond issue for infrastructure. General fund spending increased by seven percent from fiscal year 1998 to fiscal year 1999. It continued to grow after that. It grew five percent from fiscal year 2004 to 2005, nine percent from fiscal year 2005 to 2006, and an astounding 10.6 percent from fiscal year 2006 to 2007.
During his tenure as governor, fiscal years 1997 to 2007, New York general fund spending increased 67 percent, according to data from the National Association of State Budget Officers. That was almost double New York’s population growth and inflation during those years.
In his final appearance in the Cato report card in 2006, the authors summarized Pataki’s time in office. “George Pataki started out as a tax-cutting, small-government governor. He ended up as a big spender seemingly hell-bent on overturning anything good he had done in his first term.” His grade fell from an “A” in his first two years in office to a “D” for his final term
Pataki’s tenure as governor can be divided into two distinct periods. His first two years in office embodied fiscal restraint. Pataki cut taxes and spending and downsized the state’s workforce. He quickly lost steam tackling the monster New York budget. Pataki increased taxes by $3 billion in his last term. Under Pataki's leadership, state general fund spending increased by 67 percent. His campaign will hopefully answer the question of which Pataki is running for president.