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New Push To Tax New York's Wealthiest

Mayor de Blasio in Albany on Wednesday.
Karen DeWitt
Mayor de Blasio in Albany on Wednesday.

Proponents of raising taxes on New York’s wealthiest say they have a new impetus to increase the state’s revenue: the continued bad news from Washington about deep federal cuts to health care and other areas. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has called an amendment to the federal repeal of Obamacare that would force the state to pick up county Medicaid costs “unconscionable." 

The potential $2.3 billion loss in federal aid from the amendment, proposed by Buffalo-area Congressman Chris Collins, comes on top of an expected $4.5 billion hit to Medicaid, under the GOP’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. The governor’s Medicaid advisor predicts that up to 7 million New Yorkers could be at risk of losing their health care.  

The Speaker addressed a rally with progressive activists to promote the Assembly Democrats' plan to extend an existing income tax surcharge on millionaires, and expand it by adding higher tax brackets for those earning more than $5 million, $10 million and over $100 million a year. Afterward, he said there’s growing reasons why the money could be needed.

“The more we start to see what’s coming down in Washington,” said Heastie. “The state has to come up with a way to pay its bills. And right now we have no answer.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also spoke at the rally. He plugged his proposal to add a surcharge to the purchase of high priced homes, known as the mansion tax, to pay for housing for seniors. He says the average price of the homes covered is $4.5 million.

“I think we can all agree if someone can afford to buy a $4.5 million home, they can give a little more so our seniors can have affordable housing, right?” de Blasio said.

Neither Governor Cuomo nor Republicans who lead the State Senate support the mayor’s mansion tax or an expansion of the millionaire’s tax. Cuomo does back an extension of the existing millionaire’s tax , which is due to expire later this year, but the governor has said he thinks adding to that tax could drive people out of the state.

“The fear is that you could raise taxes so high that people leave the state,” Cuomo said on February 7. “And I do believe there’s a tipping point.”

Speaker Heastie says he’s not deterred by the statements; he says he’s seen other measures once considered a long shot, like increasing the state’s minimum wage, become law.

“There’s been items that we’ve pushed in the past that people though never had a shot,” said Heastie, who said  that, in the end, “they happened.”

Cuomo, in a statement, now says New York would have to raise everyone’s income taxes by 10 percent to make up for the threatened health care cuts that continue to add up from Washington.  The governor says if the Obamacare related taxes on the wealthy are also eliminated, then the state’s middle class might have to see their taxes go up by 26 percent.  

Cuomo, in the second day of attacks on the Collins amendment, says Republican leaders in Congress are trying to “buy votes” in exchange for support on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and he says if that’s the case, then the federal government should “pay for it.”

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