It’s not a new concept and has been pitched for years: an increased income tax on millionaires.
But this year, that idea is gaining momentum, during a time when New York desperately needs money.
New York needs $30 billion over the next two years and officials are looking to the federal government for assistance.
The unemployment rate in New York still stands at 10.2 percent, as the state works to get back on its feet after being shut down for months.
But Angeles Solis with Make the Road New York says this means people are going hungry, missing rent payments, and struggling to make ends meet.
“We have New Yorkers who are on the precipice of losing the homes that they paid for, that they rented and we’re at risk,” Solis said. “And right now here in New York we have more billionaires than anywhere else in the world. We have 120 billionaires here in New York. There’s no excuse as to why they can’t pay a tiny tax to make sure that everyone can survive this crisis.”
This group is currently pushing for about seven different pieces of legislation that would increase taxes on the ultra-millionaires and billionaires.
These bills had limited support in the Legislature over the years, but now over a hundred lawmakers, as well as the two legislative leaders have voiced support for some sort of tax increase on the ultra-wealthy.
“The governor loves to utilize the symbolism of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Assemblyman Phil Steck said. “I’m afraid that in the Democratic Party today, we have too much symbolism and not enough delivering for the people.”
But E.J. McMahon with the Empire Center says some of these bills being proposed are completely unconstitutional, especially the one that would tax the overall wealth of a person.
McMahon references a provision in the state constitution that prohibits “ad valorem taxes” or taxes on intangible assets. The only exception listed is income.
“What the advocates have come back and claimed is that, ‘well no we actually are taxing a form of income, we are taxing something called “economic income.”’ Now you’re getting into the weeds,” McMahon explained. “That’s a macroeconomic concept that in fact did not exist when the constitution was enacted.”
McMahon insists that New York should not be looking to increase revenue; rather it should look to cut spending.
He says most of these bills would be immediately challenged in court if they were ever to pass the state Legislature.
“It’s hopelessly complicated, could never actually be done and if the state ever made any effort to do it most of the people subject to it would be gone in an instant,” McMahon said.
New York currently has a millionaire’s tax in place that generates roughly $4.5 billion a year.