Advocacy groups from across the state this week are backing a united push to increase taxes and end tax breaks on upper income earners in New York in a bid to raise $50 billion in revenue ahead of a contentious state budget season.
The groups range from labor unions like DC 37 and PSC-CUNY in New York City to tenant advocacy organizations in Rochester and local progressive organizations with chapters in Tompkins County and Buffalo.
The effort is falling under the organization of the Alliance for Quality Education, a group that has been at odds over the years with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, clashing with him on increasing aid for schools in New York.
The groups are seeking the passage of a package of measures designed to increase taxes and end tax loopholes on the richest New Yorkers in the state budget as New York's finances have been damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposals include increasing taxes on billionaires, a tax on inherited wealth, a capital gains tax and taxes for Wall Street and corporations.
“For too long, working people from across the State have suffered from budgets that prioritize the needs of the rich rather than our most vulnerable,” said Executive Director of District Council 37 Henry Garrido. “Rebuilding our economy will require all of us to pitch in; it is past time for the wealthy to pay their fair share.”
Cuomo in the past has been hesitant to embrace tax increases of any size in the state budget, pointing to the ability of rich people to easily leave New York. The state relies on a relatively small band of tax filers to make up a large portion of its personal income tax revenue.
The state's chances of receiving a larger piece of direct aid from the federal government were buoyed this week by the victories of two Democrats in a pair of U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia; the party is now expected to control the chamber when President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
But Cuomo has also acknowledged federal aid, whatever is approved, may not be enough to patch the hole in the budget, making tax increases all the more likely.
The coming debate over increasing taxes, the groups this week argued, should not be blunted by the increased likelihood of aid from Washington.
At the same time, they point to the disproportionate effect the pandemic and the economic fallout the crisis has taken on communities of color.
“While New Yorkers are losing jobs, income, health insurance, and their lives in the middle of the pandemic, private insurance companies are reporting record profits," said YuLing Koh Hsu and Ursula Rozum, co-directors of the Campaign for New York Health.
"It's time for the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay their fair share in order to guarantee every resident and worker in New York access to high quality care regardless of employment, income, age, race, or immigration status."
Cuomo is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address on Monday.