NYS union leaders, lawmakers push for increasing taxes on the ‘ultra-wealthy’

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As New York deals with an estimated $14 billion budget gap, there have been ongoing concerns over finances while the state continues to navigate through the economic effects of the pandemic.

The state is fighting for federal funding to offset the issue, but some say in addition to that, the state should raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers.

“The idea of taxing the wealthiest and utilizing that to inject money into an economy that desperately needs it, that’s the way to go,” said United University Professions President Fred Kowal.

Kowal said that in addition to federal funding, revenue raised from increasing taxes on ultra-millionaires and billionaires could be used to fund public education and healthcare. 

In a statement Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in part, “We are all hurting and this crisis calls for multimillionaires and billionaires to help our state shoulder this extraordinary burden.” Speaker Carl Heastie tweeted similar sentiments, adding the push for more federal support:

The @NYSA_Majority has long favored asking those with more to pay their fair share. So many of our neighbors are suffering during this crisis, and we must ask those New Yorkers that do very well to do a little bit more.

At the same time, it is critical that the federal government also step up and deliver essential funding to help our schools, hospitals and local governments that are being crushed under the weight of this pandemic.

UUP said a billionaires tax could generate $5.5 billion annually, and reducing or eliminating the stock transfer tax could generate another $14 billion a year. 

“We need to utilize basically every tool in our kit to try to generate revenue right now,” Kowal said.

There’s also been concerns about the costs to safely reopen schools and universities. The American Federation of Teachers has estimated that reopening public schools nationwide will cost $116.5 billion.

And a recent New York State School Boards Association poll found only “twenty-nine percent” of board members polled “believe schools in their district could reopen safely” without additional state or federal aid.

The Senate Majority Leader said a “revenue working group has been created” to develop proposals to address the budget issues. Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt has called it a “tax hike working group” and said that a new tax will result in more people leaving the state.

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