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Democratic lawmakers back new taxes on rich to plug state budget gap


Democratic state lawmakers from the Rochester area are backing a package of bills that would raise taxes on wealthy New Yorkers.

Assembly members Harry Bronson, Jen Lunsford, Sarah Clark, and Demond Meeks, along with Senators Jeremy Cooney and Samra Brouk joined together during a Zoom call to announce their support for the Invest in Our New York Act. The series of six bills would place a number of new taxes on the wealthy and would raise between $71 and $94 billion in the first year, according to the lawmakers.

New York state is facing a $15 billion for the current year’s budget, which is expected to snowball into a $63 billion shortfall over the next four years, according to a mid-year budget update from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. The Invest in Our New York Act is intended to fill in the gap, fund vital resources, and provide revenue for the state’s reserve funds.
Demond Meeks represents the 137th Assembly District. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • Demond Meeks represents the 137th Assembly District.

“This is one of those things, it’s not us versus them, it’s about us working together collectively to protect New York state,” Meeks said. “...We know the challenges we face here in the Rochester community, and they’ve just been exacerbated as they relate to the pandemic.”

Under the Invest in Our New York Act, individuals with incomes exceeding $300,000 and married couples with incomes exceeding $450,000 would see tax hikes, which get progressively larger moving up the income brackets. The act also includes a new capital gains tax of 9-17 percent, a 5 percent tax on inheritances over $250,000, a small tax on Wall Street transactions, and a new corporate tax that will offset a federal break given to large companies during Donald Trump’s presidency.

The act would provide $4 billion for rent assistance during the pandemic, $6 billion to fund public schools, and $3.5 billion to fund unemployment benefits for those who do not qualify for federal assistance, namely immigrants.

“The ability to pay for college, the ability to have equitable education, housing, nurses, teachers, food access, job training, childcare, these are the things that grow our state,” Clark said. “And these are the things we’re not able to invest in if we don’t ask for more from those who most can afford it.”

The act cites the COVID-19 pandemic's economic toll as the prime motivator to pass tax increases on the wealthy. However, Justin Wilcox, executive director of Unshackle Upstate said now is the time to avoid tax increases.

"This effort, funded by the same special interests that constantly call for higher taxes and spending, ignores the fact New York has the highest tax burden in the nation," Wilcox said, in an email. "Enacting billions in new tax increases would be regressive as it would force more New Yorkers to flee to low-tax states. Given New York's extraordinary economic crisis, we need to provide real relief to employers and taxpayers so we can get our economy growing again."

Assemblyman Harry Bronson, who was appointed chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Economic Development on Tuesday, said he expects all of the bills to be part of the state’s budget negotiations. If those bills fail in the budget process, they could also be taken up outside the budget, although that is less likely.

“If history serves us as an indicator of what will likely happen, these types of things usually happen during budget negotiations, where we have to be strong and fight for these revenues so we can provide for our families that are in desperate need,” Bronson said.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or