ALBANY — Mayor Bill de Blasio, lobbying in Albany Wednesday, said drastic funding cuts proposed in Washington require higher state taxes on the wealthy to avoid deep cuts in New York classrooms and hospitals.
At the mayor’s side was Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who quoted Mr. Spock of TV’s “Star Trek:” “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”
Heastie (D-Bronx) and de Blasio support a proposed extension of a surcharge on million-dollar earners that brings $2 billion in revenue to the state. Heastie and the liberal Working Families Party also backed de Blasio’s proposed “mansion tax” on buyers of homes in New York City costing $2 million or more to help fund affordable housing projects.
They say the taxes are needed to offset the potential loss of billions of dollars in federal aid under Trump’s plan to replace Obamacare and to make cuts in other areas to support his increased military spending and tax cuts, which Democrats argue will mostly benefit the wealthy.
“I think the more that we start to see what’s coming down from Washington the more it will convince people,” Heastie said.
The state budget is due April 1.
The state Senate’s Republican majority is opposed to tax increases that they say would hurt New York’s economy and job growth. Heastie, however, said that in closed-door negotiations over the state budget with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the GOP Senate, he “doesn’t have any indication right now of a panic that we are not going to get to agreement” on extending the millionaire’s tax. The tax, created as an emergency, temporary measure in 2009 during the recession, is the key funding element to Cuomo’s 2017-18 budget proposal.
De Blasio wasn’t as optimistic for the city’s mansion tax. He announced that Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) will sponsor the bill in the Senate controlled by Republicans. She is part of the Independent Democratic Conference that works in a majority coalition with the GOP, but her sponsorship doesn’t mean the Republicans will support the goal of the Democratic mayor. Republicans remain at odds with De Blasio after he campaigned for Democrats to take control of the Senate.
“While we appreciate that the mayor can still find his way to Albany, this idea has already been rejected,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. “Senate Republicans support cutting taxes, not raising them.”
The business group Reclaim New York agreed that the taxes would hurt the economy.
“These taxes discourage investment in our state and hammer many small business owners,” said the group’s spokesman, Doug Kellogg. “Lazy politicians with a spending addiction rallying to loot more from taxpayers, who pay the highest taxes in the nation, is nothing short of sad and appalling.”
De Blasio and Heastie said, however, that federal cuts in health care and other funding to the state proposed by Trump and the Republican Congress underscore the need for the taxes on the wealthy.
“If we don’t have the money to pay for it,” Heastie said of proposed deep cuts in state aid under the budget of Republican President Donald Trump, “a lot of people in this state are going to suffer.”