Negotiations are currently underway over the possibility of holding an unusual end-of-the-year state legislative session this month to consider raising taxes on the wealthy and extending an eviction moratorium for renters.
But before any session happens, Democratic leaders may need to get on the same page.
Lawmakers are not due back until the start of the 2021 legislative session in January, one which will include new members who were elected in November.
It is highly unusual to come back before then, with only three weeks left in the year, in order to enact major public policy changes.
But speaking to reporters Monday, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said “I think something like an income tax, if you want to get a full year’s value of it. I think you do have to consider it now.”
Sources say Democrats in the state Senate were caught off guard by those remarks, since private negotiations were ongoing.
During a conference Friday among members of the Democratic Assembly Majority, Heastie shared results of a recent poll he commissioned which showed broad support for raising taxes on those making $1 million a year and above, and even support from a majority of New Yorkers to raise taxes on those making $500,000 and above. Insiders say the Senate doesn’t want to go that low, and would prefer to raise taxes on households making more than $5 million, or $2 million at the lowest.
The Senate Democrats have many suburban members with well-off constituents who would be impacted by a raise in taxes. Even Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ district includes the wealthy enclave of Scarsdale. A representative for the Senate Democrats denies they have agreed to any income threshold. “All options are on the table,” said spokesperson Mike Murphy.
Negotiations became even more tense after Manhattan and Brooklyn State Sen. Brian Kavanagh got out ahead of Assembly Democrats and told “The Real Deal” that lawmakers are ready to pass a moratorium on evictions.
Kavanagh told the real estate news site, “It’s important we put a blanket moratorium in place that prevents all residential evictions.”
A spokesman for the Assembly Democrats denied any conflict over this, saying Heastie also supports the moratorium and “he said so yesterday.”
Meanwhile Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he is open to raising new taxes, but doesn’t see a need to do so immediately.
On Monday, Cuomo said the legislature should hold off until they know how much stimulus aid will be forthcoming from the new Biden administration in Washington.
The state of New York has a multi-billion budget hole following the COVID-19 crisis, and the mass unemployment and decline in tax revenue that followed.
“The state tax increase is not just a political decision; it’s a revenue decision,” Cuomo said Monday. “How much money do you need to balance the budget? That is the question for the state tax increase.”
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