Ahead of the final budget deadline, the push to tax the wealthy heats up

Lawmakers and advocates denounced the governor’s proposals for increased payroll mobility tax and tuition hikes – instead calling for more taxes for the wealthiest New Yorkers.

Elected officials and advocates rally for increased taxes on the wealthy

Elected officials and advocates rally for increased taxes on the wealthy Shantel Destra/City & State

With the final state budget deadline looming, advocates and state lawmakers rallied at the state Capitol for an increase in taxes on the wealthy as part of the final state budget on Monday. 

Democratic state Sen. Jessica Ramos described this week as “the most important week” for budget fights while telling community advocates the time was critical to getting their concerns met. “This is when we show the governor and the Legislature what we're all about, why you sent me and people like me here to Albany to fight for you,” Ramos said, amid applause and “pay their share” chants from the crowd. 

“We ask the governor: Don’t listen to the high rollers. Listen to the voters,” Ramos added.

This isn’t a new fight. Advocates have been calling on the Legislature to impose increased taxes on the wealthy for several legislative sessions by pushing for a slew of bills – including a bill that would raise taxes progressively on high-income taxpayers, a bill implementing a tax on long-term capital gains and a bill establishing an annual tax on the increased value of assets for billionaires at 8.2%. Advocates and lawmakers also rallied for increasing taxes ahead of the joint legislative tax hearing for the 2024 executive budget proposal just last month. 

The latest push – a few days ahead of the final April 1 budget deadline  – comes after a recent Siena College Research Institute poll found 76% of New Yorkers, including Republicans and Democrats, widely support increasing state income taxes for those earning more than $5 million from 10.3% to $10.8% and those earning more than $25 million from 10.9% to 11.4%. 

Advocates highlighted the poll’s findings while asserting a final budget that prioritizes working-class people must include increased taxes for wealthy corporations and ultra-wealthy New Yorkers. Along with Ramos, several community coalitions – including Invest in Our New York, New York Communities for Change, Riders Alliance and others – as well as Democratic state Sen. Robert Jackson and Assembly Members Harvey Epstein, Anna Kelles and Dana Levenberg called for a final budget that imposes an increase in taxes on wealthy New Yorkers while at the rally.

While Gov. Kathy Hochul has vowed not to increase income taxes – and has proposed extending the corporate tax for another three years in her 2024 executive budget proposal – the Assembly and the state Senate have both included a higher millionaire tax in their respective one-house budget resolutions earlier this month. Amid ongoing budget negotiations, Epstein told City & State, the effort to increase taxes on the wealthy is “in a really good position” while touting its inclusion in both one-house resolutions.

Advocates and lawmakers denounced the governor’s proposal to increase taxes on downstate employers to help fund the MTA and her plan to impose tuition hikes for SUNY and CUNY campuses, arguing the funding should instead come from imposing a tax on wealthy New Yorkers. Among them was Epstein who criticized the governor’s promises not to raise taxes in the final budget. “The governor has said earlier in the year that she doesn't want to raise taxes – but she is raising taxes. She already has a regressive tax raise, we want a progressive tax rate,” Epstein said. 

When asked by City & State about the rally and whether or not the governor would consider legislation to increase taxes on the wealthy, a spokesperson pointed to remarks Hochul made at a March press conference.

“I've said we're not raising income taxes. We have to make sure that we live within our means right now and not do anything to have people that are contributing to the tax base not be here any longer,” Hochul said when asked about the one-house budget resolution inclusion of increases to taxes by reporters.

The fight over increasing taxes on the wealthy isn’t the only controversial initiative on the table amid ongoing budget negotiations. Further rollbacks to bail reform laws, lifting the regional charter school cap and plans to build more housing are also crucial proposals that may delay the approval of the final budget. 

Organizers say Monday’s rally was one of several scheduled in the days leading up to the deadline in an effort to demand direct investments in labor, climate justice, education, and housing in the final budget. Advocates had also begun an “occupation” of the Albany War Room in the Capitol to put pressure on the Legislature and the governor.