City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and union leaders from District Council 37, the New York State Nurses Association, the New York State United Teachers, and several others gathered Feb. 10 at the Legislative Office Building in Albany to call on state legislators to create a millionaires tax to close a looming $6.1 billion deficit in the state budget.
The coalition announced that a survey of 1,000 registered voters across the state conducted by Hart Research Associates showed that 92 percent supported increasing taxes on billionaires and multi-millionaires.
Eyeing $2B in Cuts
The state is facing the shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year largely because of an increase in Medicaid costs, and legislators are seeking cuts to the program to create more than $2 billion in savings. The program serves about six million New Yorkers, who are predominantly low-income or elderly.
“As nurses, we see the compelling necessity of every Medicaid dollar, with more than a quarter of New York’s population—26 percent—covered by Medicaid and Children’s Health Plus,” said NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane, which represents 37,000 nurses. “To ensure that our hospitals, community health centers, physicians, nursing homes and jobs in the health-care sector all receive the Medicaid funding they need, it is critical that we generate the revenue that makes that funding possible in the first place.”
The unions estimated that additional taxes on the state’s 112 billionaires and 46,000 multi-millionaires would create $12 billion in revenue.
“As the state looks to close its budget deficit, it would be irresponsible for legislators to not consider new revenue streams,” said Henry Garrido, the executive director of DC 37. “We must reject the notion that cuts to programs and services for vulnerable New Yorkers across the state are needed to fill the gap year after year; and instead, tell the ultra-wealthy it’s their turn to pay their fair share.”
Short on School Aid
In his budget proposal, Governor Cuomo has projected an $826-million increase for education next fiscal year—but that’s less than half the amount school officials requested. And although funding for city public schools was expected to increase by 2 percent, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has said that the amount was $136 million less than what the city anticipated.
“While some say it may be hard to consider tax proposals in an election year, we say that it’s hard for our schools to go without the social workers, classroom technology and supplies they need because the state wouldn’t ask the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said.
Ron Deutsch, executive director of the nonprofit research group the Fiscal Policy Institute, noted that concerns that raising taxes on the richest New Yorkers would cause them to leave the state were unfounded.
“From 2009, when the tax surcharge on millionaires was first enacted, to 2016, the number of millionaires in New York grew by 72 percent. They are not leaving,” he said.
‘Pay Your Fair Share’
Elected officials such as City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Mr. Johnson also showed their support for the measure.
“We need to be smart and thoughtful about this, and that’s why we should be raising taxes and creating new revenue based on the wealthiest New Yorkers who for far too long have been underpaying their taxes,” Mr. Johnson said. “Pay your fair share, kick in a little bit more, so that the 19 percent of New York City residents who are living below the poverty line are not hurting in this budget.”
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