Queens rallygoers urge Cuomo to tax billionaires to save low-income communities

Residents of in Queens are marched on Sunday, urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to adopt a tax on billionaires. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

After Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would not sign a bill that Queens state Senator Jessica Ramos sponsored to place higher taxes on the billionaires of New York, people in parts of Queens most affected by COVID-19 say that he’s just giving the richest a free ride.

By Cuomo’s logic, the bill — which would place the new tax on stock transfers — would only chase off New York’s 119 billionaires rather than create a worker bailout fund through a new mark to market tax on the wealthiest.

Ramos and the bill’s backers, however, say “let them go.”

“COVID’s made it so hard for our families to make ends meet … Meanwhile, 119 billionaires have been making a killing during the pandemic,” Ramos said. “We are asking for a worker bailout.”

Organizers with Make the Road New York, an immigrant organization, said the demonstration focuses on improving the Black, Brown, immigrant and low-income communities of New York, all of whom have been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. with

“We need relief and we need relief now,” one rallygoer said.

Over 300 people marched on Sunday in support of Ramos’ legislation, from Corona Plaza west along Roosevelt Avenue and down to LeFrak City. More than just a demonstration of chants and signs, the march featured music from mariachi bands and colorful, costumed spectators who also made their voices heard.

According to the bill’s language, the state finance law is amended to treat “residential billionaires capital gains on their net assets as annual income, furthermore, taxing billionaires yearly unrealized capital gains. Year one taxes all built in gains on assets owned by billionaires before 2020 with a ten year payout period. Year two, onward taxes the yearly gains of assets unrealized. All money collected from this tax will be placed in ‘the worker bailout fund.'”

Photo by Mark Hallum
Photo by Mark Hallum

Cuomo commented last week that a billionaire tax bill is no good on the basis that the federal government had exacerbated the crisis in the first place, and it’s not on anyone but Washington to refill the coffers of state and local government, not billionaires.

When asked if there was a limit to his opposition of taxing billionaires, Cuomo told amNewYork Metro the state would have to be under extreme circumstances.

Photo by Mark Hallum

“If the legislation is not going to help New York, you know what I say to [federal lawmakers]? Don’t pass it,” Cuomo said on Aug. 3. “One percent of the population pays 40% of taxes, and they’re the most mobile people on the globe… That would be a bad place we’d have to go to [to raise taxes].”

The governor says he is holding out for another stimulus that would offer financial relief to the decimated budgets of cities and states, criticizing the executive order signed by President Donald Trump over the weekend and over the last few weeks deriding the HEALS Act.

Make the Road New York organized the event joined by Desis Rising up and Moving, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, and former Queens District Attorney candidate Tiffany Cabán.

With additional reporting by Angélica Acevedo

Photos by Mark Hallum

Correction note: an original version of this story centered around a bill that would raise taxes on billionaires to fund the MTA. More specifically, those at the rally were calling for the passage of a similar bill that could create a fund for working class New Yorkers.