Some NY lawmakers draw line in the sand on taxing the wealthy

Multiple bills would take different approaches to taxing the rich.

Rally at State Capitol in Albany

Rally at State Capitol in Albany Invest in Our New York

In recent legislative sessions, there have been increased calls to tax the wealthiest New Yorkers. This legislative session, advocates and lawmakers have already started gaining enthusiasm behind the Invest In Our New York Act ahead of budget negotiations. 

Ahead of the joint legislative hearing Thursday on taxes for the 2024 executive budget proposal, advocates and lawmakers rallied at the state Capitol calling on the governor and Legislature to pass a budget that includes several bills aimed at taxing the wealthy – including a bill to increase the tax on corporate income, a bill that would raise taxes progressively on high-income taxpayers, a bill implementing a tax on long-term capital gains, a bill that establishes taxes on inheritance and a bill establishing an annual tax on the increased value of assets for billionaires at 8.2%. 

Back in 2021, the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed legislation to add corporate taxes to businesses making more than $5 million in annual revenue. That measure is set to expire this year, and Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed extending the corporate tax for another three years in her 2024 executive budget proposal. Advocates say that’s not enough and are calling for the taxes to be permanently implemented with the bill sponsored by state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Anna Kelles.

When probed by Sen. Andrew Gounardes on the proposed three-year extension of the corporate tax rate – amid projections of budget gaps in years to come – in the executive budget, Amanda Hiller, acting commissioner of the state Department of Taxes and Finance said there was nothing in the governor’s proposal that would hinder the Legislature from extending the rate in years to come or making it permanent. “Generally, the notion of having sunsets on legislation, including tax rates, is to ensure that we have the opportunity to revisit them,” Hiller said at the tax hearing.

Juanita Lewis, executive director of Community Voices Heard, told City & State the money secured through the corporate tax two years ago helped grant relief to New Yorkers but only scratched the surface. “Now there's another opportunity to do that. Even though the money we did get a couple of years ago was good and helpful at that time, it wasn't enough to meet the need New Yorkers are still facing,” Lewis said.

Lewis also pointed to high inflation rates as another reason behind the growing momentum of taxing the wealthy. “The moment that we’re in: We’re seeing the rising cost of goods happening and the ultra-wealthy continue to get wealthier, while New Yorkers are really feeling the brunt of that,” Lewis said.

Another popular bill focuses on eliminating loopholes for taxes on stocks and investments and was first introduced in 2021. Since then, Assembly Member Ron Kim, sponsor of the bill, said there’d been progress on the bill and he’s optimistic that the legislation will make it into the Legislature’s one-house budget proposals this year. Kim underscored the burden on working-class and middle-class New Yorkers who have to pay property taxes at a time when the state is suffering population loss.

“The old model of overrelying on property taxes just doesn't work,” Kim said. “It's clearly driving out working- and middle-class homeowners out of New York because they're constantly asked to carry the burden of creating new revenues – at a time when we should be shifting more of the responsibility of those people who took advantage of the tax breaks for many years.” 

The Flushing, Queens Assembly Member also pointed to momentum at the federal level on taxing the wealthy – including President Joe Biden calling on wealthy Americans to pay more in taxes during his State of the Union speech and legislation by Sen. Bernie Sanders to use capital gains as a revenue stream for future social security needs – as reasons why enthusiasm is growing around this legislation.

“We need real, forward-thinking taxes, that protect our economy and not drive out the middle and working class out of New York,” Kim said.