President Trump this week added another wrinkle to his long complicated relationship with his home state, when he encouraged residents of upstate New York who are unhappy with the region’s economy to “go to another state.”
Mr. Trump’s comments, which came during an interview with reporters at the White House on Wednesday, were his latest critical remarks of the region, which has lost thousands of residents in recent years amid a sluggish economy.
“If New York isn’t going to treat them better, I would recommend they go to another state where they can get a great job,” Mr. Trump said, according to The Buffalo News.
Mr. Trump, who lived in New York City for most of his life, has routinely put down upstate New York despite finding widespread support there. In the 2016 election, he flipped 14 upstate counties that Barack Obama won in 2012. Yet during the campaign, he singled out the area as a “ghost town,” and in 2017 suggested to The Wall Street Journal that residents leave the region. “It’s O.K., don’t worry about your house,” he said.
Despite Mr. Trump’s cynical advice, New York Republicans said they were not offended by the comments. Rather, they agreed with the president’s assessment.
“He was stating the obvious, and the obvious is that New York has been in a death spiral for 50 years,” said Chris Collins, the congressman who represents the Buffalo area and was the first member of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump’s campaign. “All of the problems in New York State are driven by policy out of Albany that is now 100 percent controlled by downstate interests.”
Carl Paladino, a political ally of Mr. Trump and a former Republican nominee for New York governor, echoed the president’s sentiments, saying he has also advised young people to leave the state.
“Trump is hitting it right on the nose,” he said. “New York has become another super liberal state like California, and we have a governor who is so vain that it’s all about him, and the way people view him nationally, because he has his heart set on being drafted to be president of the United States. He has little regard for the problems of upstate New York.”
Mr. Paladino added: “If you’re from upstate New York, you don’t have any future. It’s just an economic nightmare.”
But for Craig Yunker, a farmer in western New York, President Trump’s comments, while they may be realistic, are not helpful.
Mr. Yunker said it has become increasingly difficult to operate a business in New York, but “it’s very difficult to leave New York.”
“That’s not a solution,” said Mr. Yunker, a Republican who does not support Mr. Trump. “If there are issues that can be addressed, let’s address them.”
Mr. Trump’s comments came the same week New York reported a $2.3 billion budget gap, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo blamed on Mr. Trump, whose 2017 tax bill put a cap on the so-called SALT deduction for state and local property taxes. Mr. Cuomo said this has created “an economic civil war” between blue and red states.
“The economic incentive to move out of New York is higher than it has ever been,” Mr. Cuomo said Thursday at a speech in Manhattan. “SALT put that problem on steroids. Our tax collections are down about 50 percent.”
But in his Wednesday interview, Mr. Trump seemingly did not understand the full extent of his tax bill, saying it would not hurt upstate New York because it only “affects wealthy people.”
When reporters clarified its effects, Mr. Trump said he was “open to thinking about” revisiting the issue.
“I love those people,” he said about upstate residents. “Those people are my voters. They’ve been treated very badly.”
Mr. Trump, who has had a fraught relationship with New York’s political leaders, placed the blame for the residents’ struggles squarely on the state government, which he said has been “poorly run.”
Though it acknowledged the population decline in upstate New York, Cuomo’s administration dismissed the president’s critiques as untruthful and devoid of any solutions to the budget shortfall.
“We provide for New Yorkers, and I’d put that record against any Trump company any day of the week,” Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, said.
Mr. Azzopardi also pointed to the dropping unemployment rate in upstate New York. Excluding New York City and Long Island, the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent as of December 2018, down from 8 percent in December 2010, he said.
Follow Tyler Pager on Twitter: @tylerpager.
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