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A day of caving

   It was a day of flipping and flopping Wednesday for the Spitzer administration, as the governor surely set the new Albany record for policy shifts in one day.

   First, the governor abandoned his controversial plan to permit illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. That came after weeks of his bashing critics as “immoral’’ for not siding with his plan.

By the afternoon, word came out of another retreat: backing away from a tax department plan to begin requiring Amazon and other big Internet retailers to collect sales taxes in advance on products sold to New Yorkers.

   Turns out, the Spitzer administration can read a calendar. The tax was due to kick in Dec. 1 – the beginning of the Christmas sales season.

   “Gov. Spitzer believes that now is not the right time to be increasing sales taxes on New Yorkers.  He has directed the Department of Tax and Finance to pull back its interpretation that would require some Internet retailers that do not collect sales tax to do so,’’ said Paul Francis, the governor’s budget director.

   Probably also wouldn’t have looked too good to be beefing up sales tax enforcement at the same time the administration has backed away from efforts to collect taxes on cigarettes and gasoline sold by Indian retailers.

  For the governor, running away from his license plan is, his backers believe, the chance for him to try to redirect attention to more pressing … and popular … matters, say, like dealing with the ailing upstate economy.

   For some Democrats, it was an opportunity to finally come out from under their desks, where the more politically vulnerable ones have been trying to hide since the governor proposed his plan in September.

   It comes after Senate Democrats were asked to fall on their sword for the governor when the license issue was the chief topic of debate during a one-day special session. Democrat after Democrat rose to defend Spitzer on the floor of the Senate.

   "It does not take a stethoscope to hear the pulse of New Yorkers on this topic," Spitzer
said in Washington Wednesday during his retreat address.

   For certain, the issue did do one thing for the governor: it took off the front pages
stories about how top aides in his office used the State Police to try to smear a political

   But, in Albany, timing is everything. The disappearance of the license issue Wednesday
comes just days after it was revealed Darren Dopp, the governor's former communications
director, is being investigated by Albany prosecutors over possible conflicting sworn
statements he gave over his role in that campaign against Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

   So, is it exit License Flap, re-enter Spitzergate?

-- Tom Precious

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