ALBANY — Union officials are joining the chorus of voices calling on New York to increases taxes on the wealthy to address the state’s dire fiscal situation.
Nearly a dozen labor unions and the New York State AFL-CIO want to see lawmakers return to the Capitol before the end of the year to pass higher income taxes on the state’s richest residents, a move that could help raise roughly $7 to $9 billion in revenue and offset the economic strain of the coronavirus crisis.
“It is encouraging that legislators are considering returning to session this month to ask the wealthiest New Yorkers to do their fair share to address the deep state budget crisis brought on by the pandemic,” union leaders said in a statement. “But now is definitely the time for bold action. Without billions of dollars in additional revenues, there will be disastrous cuts in schools, health care, and public services–and not nearly enough funds to bail out those devastated by the pandemic–renters, small landlords, small business owners, restaurant owners.”
The Communications Workers of America, New York State Nurses Association, New York State United Teachers Union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers, along with six other unions signed off on the statement.
The call comes a day after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said that negotiations are underway with the Senate and Gov. Cuomo on potential tax increases on the ultra-rich, and that lawmakers could still return to Albany before the end of the year to act on much-needed revenue-generating measures.
But Cuomo appeared to throw cold water on the idea of a special year-end session, saying he wants to wait on Congress or President-elect Joe Biden to act in the coming weeks.
“Doing it without the Washington funding is going to be really, really difficult, I don’t believe Washington gives us nothing,” the governor said.
The governor remains hopeful even though Congress has yet to come to an agreement on a new federal stimulus package. Lawmakers in Washington are considering a $908 billion spending bill, but it’s unclear if Republicans in the Senate will sign off on state and local aid that Dems in the House are pushing for.
Advocates have repeatedly called on state officials to take the matter into their own hands as Cuomo’s budget office projects massive revenue shortfalls over the next several years that could reach $60 billion. Several bills have been proposed over the past year that would target stock transfers, second homes and other items. An income tax increase on New York’s millionaires and billionaires that would add higher tax brackets for those making over $5 million, $10 million and $100 million is also under consideration.
Heastie said Monday that legislators will have to act soon as the state could face legal challenges if lawmakers wait and approve a tax increase following budget negotiations in March.
The state constitution requires ample notice to be given to taxpayers when an increase is implemented, he argued.
“It’s our belief that you can’t pass a tax increase in March and retroact it back to January,” Heastie said. “The constitution is clear when it says you have to give people notice.”
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