Top Democrats in the state Legislature on Wednesday united behind calls for increasing taxes on the rich as direct aid from the federal government continues to stall.  

What You Need To Know

  • Senate Democrats backed hiking taxes on richer New Yorkers to generate more revenue for the state.

  • New York has lost billionaires of dollars during the pandemic.

  • Cuts in spending to schools, health care and local governments is possible. Cuomo wants federal aid to make up the difference.

  • And Cuomo opposes increasing taxes, saying wealthy people are very mobile.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement backed tax hikes for "multimillionaires and billionaires" to help boost the state's flagging tax revenue. 

“While we collectively work to get needed federal aid from Washington, there is no question that substantial additional revenue action from the state will be necessary," she said in a statement.

"We are all hurting and this crisis calls for multimillionaires and billionaires to help our state shoulder this extraordinary burden. While there is no single action that will solve all our problems, we shouldn't be looking to the already overburdened working and middle class to solve the crisis. The Senate has created a revenue working group that has been diligently developing proposals over the last few months that will help guide our approach.”

Assembly Democrats and Speaker Carl Heastie previously have been supportive of increasing taxes on richer New Yorkers to make up the lost revenue. The state's budget gap over the next two years is a combined $30 billion, and Governor Andrew Cuomo has said deep spending cuts will be necessary without federal support. 

Spending reductions of up to 20 percent for local governments, health care and schools are possible, and some of the money the state sends to cities and non-profit groups has already been withheld. The broader economy, too, is unwell: New York's unemployment rate in June stood are more than 15 percent statewide.

The cuts are yet to take effect as the next, and likely final, stimulus legislation is still under negotiation in Washington.

But Cuomo for now has not embraced tax hikes on rich people, arguing upper income people are far more mobile and can simply leave the state. 

New York's budget revenue relies heavily on the personal income tax and, in turn, a handful of wealthy tax filers. 

“You have 100 billionaires, you need $50 billion," Cuomo said. "You would have to tax every billionaire half a billion dollars more to make it up, right? You know what that means? That would mean you would have no billionaires.”

For now it's not clear what the Legislature will do, where Democrats hold large majorities in both the Assembly and state Senate. All 213 seats in the Legislature are being put before voters this November, and deep cuts in popular budget items like education could complicate some re-election plans. 

Heastie on Twitter backed up Stewart-Cousins's call on Wednesday.

"The @NYSA_Majority has long favored asking those with more to pay their fair share," he wrote. "So many of our neighbors are suffering during this crisis, and we must ask those New Yorkers that do very well to do a little bit more."