ALBANY - Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York has been on the right path during his term. Republican challenger Rob Astorino says New York is losing. Can they both be right?
With New York's economic condition a certain election-year issue, Cuomo said the state reversed its decline in the last four years through tough choices and fiscal discipline. Astorino's signature campaign slogan - "Is New York winning or is New York losing?" - rejects the idea that things are improving.
A key difference between the two men is how they make their comparisons.
Astorino said the state is losing people and jobs to other states with lower taxes and better business climates. Cuomo often highlights progress in gaining jobs and cutting taxes since he took office four years ago. In general, Cuomo tends to make his comparisons over time and Astorino makes them over space, as in state-to-state.
Their statements are accurate but sometimes leave out context. Here's a detailed look at some of the claims made by Cuomo and Astorino related to the economy:
Astorino: "We're losing more people to other states than any other state in the country - 400,000 people in the last four years."
Population drain has been an issue for decades in some parts of upstate New York. Buffalo, for instance, went from 580,000 people in 1950 to about 260,000 now.
Census numbers show a net loss of 328,538 people to other states from 2010 to 2013. Extrapolate to four years, and the net loss is a bit above 400,000.
People leave for sunnier climates, job opportunities and, yes, lower costs of living.
This is not just a New York problem: The census figures show each of the state's neighbors losing when it comes to domestic migration. New York not only had the largest net loss, but it also lost a larger share of people to other states than its neighbors relative to its total population, barely edging out New Jersey.
Domestic migration is just a part of the population picture.
Since New York City remains a magnet for immigrants, international gains over that same period almost made up for the domestic loss.
Overall, New York state's population has been growing slowly, thanks to the city.
Cuomo: "Today, the state of New York has more private-sector jobs than ever. Period."
New York state reported an all-time high 7.5 million private-sector jobs in February. Job numbers have more than bounced back in New York after a recessionary dip, which also is true in other states.
However, New York state is in the middle of the pack when it comes to the rate of private-sector job growth, according to multiple analysts. New York's 6.2 percent private sector job growth from December 2010 to February 2014 trailed the national rate of 6.8 percent, according to James Parrott of the labor-backed Fiscal Policy Institute.
E.J. McMahon of the fiscally conservative Empire Center said the state's overall job growth masks weaknesses upstate, which would rank last in job growth in the three years prior to November 2013 if it were a separate state.
Astorino: "We have the highest taxes in America, and it's not even close."
The Washington-based Tax Foundation this month reported New York's state and local tax burden as a share of collective income was a highest-in the-nation 12.6 percent in 2011, which is the latest information available.
New Jersey was close behind at 12.3 percent.
Critics say New York's high ranking is driven partly by public funding for New York City's mass transit system and policymakers' decisions to cover more people through Medicaid.
Looking at the major taxes, seven states have top income tax rates higher than New York's top rate of 8.82 percent, and dozens have a lower rate than New York's bottom rate of 4 percent, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators. Property taxes vary widely around the state, from median bills around $2,000 in rural areas to more than $9,000 in suburban New York counties like Westchester.
State-to-state tax comparisons can lag several years because of the availability of data. New York has lowered income tax rates since Cuomo took office and has taken steps to curb property tax growth.
Cuomo: "And when it comes to jobs, for example, is the economy great? No. But is the state doing better? Yes."
When upstate New York's unemployment rate dropped to 6.4 percent in December from 8.4 percent a year earlier, the event was deemed momentous enough to merit a joint statement from Cuomo and legislative leaders.
The news on unemployment since then has generally looked good. New York was among 25 states with a "statistically significant" decrease in its February unemployment rate compared to a year earlier. New York's jobless rate of 6.8 percent is similar to the national rate of 6.7 percent.
McMahon claims those numbers are misleading because they at least in part reflect a shrinking labor force in upstate New York. While the labor force has grown in New York City and Long Island over the last three years, it has contracted upstate, he said.