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Courtesy Governor's office
Queens elected officials are turning up the heat on Governor Cuomo to implement a wealth tax to close the state's budget gap,

Queens lawmakers are urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to tax the rich in order to close the gaping budget gap that grew exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eighteen of the borough’s state Senators and Assembly members committed to blocking any state budget cuts without first raising revenue from the wealthy to close the state’s $14.3 billion budget deficit.

The Queens legislators are among 100 statewide leaders and 16 labor unions, including 32BJ SEIU and 1199SEIU, pledging to block cuts without a wealth tax. They are calling themselves the Strong Economy for All Coalition and they have put the onus on Cuomo for refusing to consider raising revenue and is instead planning to cut at least $10 billion from nurses, public school teachers, senior services, and food banks.

New data released in May revealed the net worth of New York’s 118 billionaires increased by $44.9 billion during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Ultra-millionaires and billionaires should not be the only held harmless in this crisis,” the 100 elected officials said in a joint statement. “We are all in this together, and sacrifice must be shared. We the undersigned are clear: We will not allow state budget cuts without raising revenue from those who can most afford to pay more.”

The list of signatories from Queens includes state Senators Michael Gianaris, Jessica Ramos, Toby Ann Stavisky, and John Liu. Assembly members include Catalina Cruz, Aravella Simotas, Nily Rozic, David Weprin, Daniel Rosenthal, Andrew Hevesi, Alicia Hyndman, Brian Barnwell, Michael DenDekker, Jeffrion Aubry, Catherine Nolan, Ron Kim, and Michael Miller.

“Even before COVID-19, New Yorkers urgently needed major increased public investment in health care, public education from pre-K through higher education, housing, mass transportation, and many other fundamental services,” they wrote in their commitment. “That means new revenue raised by taxes on high wealth.”

They added that the Trump administration would likely not provide the federal bailout that is necessary to close the state’s budget gap.

“Washington has the responsibility and fiscal resources to aid the states to respond to the unprecedented huge costs and losses brought on by the pandemic,” they continued. “Whatever we do in New York must not be seen as implying that the federal government is in any way relieved of its responsibility. But we must be prepared to deal with federal failures to respond.”

They added that working and poor New Yorkers rely heavily on public services to help them survive day to day and that they are over-taxed and under-served because New York’s tax system does not demand enough from the ultra-wealthy.

“Long before COVID-19, New York’s working people and communities of color bore the burden of underfunded schools, hospitals, and localities — while billionaires and ultra-millionaires kept growing wealthier,” Strong Economy for All Coalition Director Michael Kink said. “Now, as our students, our teachers, and our nurses face even more severe budget cuts, a critical mass of legislators is saying enough is enough. These last three weeks have shown that when we come together to demand a better future, we can win. We applaud our elected officials for using their political will to stand up and deliver for working people.”

The coalition adds that an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers support a combination of an ultra-millionaire tax, pied-a-terre tax, and repeals of stock transfer tax refunds and yacht and jet sales taxes, which together could plug up to $8 billion of the budget deficit.

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