Press Release: Over 80 Wealthy New Yorkers Urge Governor Cuomo to Extend and Expand Millionaires’ Tax

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 21, 2017

Contact: Ron Deutsch, Fiscal Policy Institute, 518-469-6769, deutsch@fiscalpolicy.org

Mike Leyba, Responsible Wealth, 562-266-4357, mleyba@faireconomy.org

Over 80 Upper-Income New Yorkers Urge Governor Cuomo and Legislature to Extend and Expand the Millionaires’ Tax

As New York State braces for proposed federal budget cuts that could have a devastating impact on health care, education and infrastructure investments across the state, more than 80 New York residents with incomes in the top 1% have sent an open letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature urging passage of an expanded and permanent millionaires’ tax.  An expanded and permanent millionaires’ tax would bring in nearly $6 billion in annual revenue, or over $2 billion more than the current tax – set to expire in 2017 – generates.

The Fiscal Policy Institute’s “1% Plan for New York Tax Fairness” calls for expanded top tax rates for the top 1% of New Yorkers. The plan also calls for continuation of the lower rates enacted last year for middle-income New Yorkers. The 1% Plan is similar to the Assembly-passed plan in that it would set new rates and top brackets, and would also generate a significant amount of new revenue.

The signers include Eileen Fisher, David A. Levine, Dal LaMagna, Lewis B. Cullman, Abigail Disney, Agnes Gund, Leo Hindery, Jr., Steven C. Rockefeller, and George Soros. All of the signers are residents with annual incomes of $650,000 or above, putting them in the top 1% of earners in New York State. Many signers are members of the Responsible Wealth project, which initiated the letter.

While the full text of the letter is included below, the letter states in part:

As New Yorkers who have contributed to and benefited from the economic vibrancy of our state, we have both the ability and the responsibility to pay our fair share. We can well afford to pay our current taxes, and we can afford to pay even more. Our state’s long‐term economic prosperity depends on strong investments in our people and our communities.

The Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) has long supported not only extending the millionaires’ tax, but increasing the number of brackets at the top end and making the new structure permanent as well. The additional $2 billion raised under an expanded millionaires’ tax could be used to invest in our schools and infrastructure, address the state’s record levels of homelessness, hunger and poverty, and better position our state to handle the impact of any forthcoming federal funding cuts.

Contrary to the conservative insistence that progressive taxation will drive away the wealthiest taxpayers, these upper-income New Yorkers are not only staying put, but they actively support making the current millionaires’ tax permanent and more progressive. Since the millionaires’ tax was established in 2009, the number of millionaires has grown by 33 percent in our state.

Attorney Craig Kaplan said, “Since 2009, poverty in New York has increased and many state responsibilities – including education and housing subsidies – have gone underfunded. Our Legislature should strengthen the current millionaire’s tax, make it permanent, and dedicate the additional funds to improve the quality of life of ALL New Yorkers.” Kaplan and his wife, Anne Hess, were among the signers of a letter organized by Responsible Wealth in 2009 that called for a surtax on upper incomes to address New York’s then-$15 billion budget gap. The letter led to the first-ever income surtax in New York State, which was extended in 2011 in the form of the current millionaires’ tax.

David A. Levine of Manhattan, former chief economist for AllianceBernstein (at that time called Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.), stated, “I am among the many New Yorkers in the top 1% whose income is derived entirely from financial investments. It makes perfect sense that I should pay a significantly higher tax rate than working class and middle class people. And I believe I should pay a higher marginal rate than I do under the current millionaires’ tax.”

Eileen Fisher, founder of Eileen Fisher clothing company in Irvington, NY, said, “I believe those of us fortunate enough to find ourselves in the top 1% of income have a particular responsibility to support that public infrastructure. I wholeheartedly support extending and strengthening the current millionaires’ tax in New York.”

Dal LaMagna, Founder of Tweezerman Corporation, and currently President and CEO of IceStoneUSA, said, “Serious businesspeople understand it is essential for New York to make consistent investments in our infrastructure, environment, and workforce if we want economic growth, and this type of government investment helps make business success possible. Ultimately we benefit from paying our fair share of taxes.”

Sophie Robinson, a 28-year old inheritor and documentary filmmaker, said, “New York has the greatest inequality in the nation, yet fails to adequately provide for those most in need. To me, the millionaires’ tax is a simple matter of equity. Paying an additional 2-3% on my New York State income does not affect my standard of living. But having adequate tax revenue to invest in public transportation, infrastructure, parks and social services for those who are struggling makes New York a better place for all of us.”

Responsible Wealth project director Mike Lapham said, “Responsible Wealth members understand that their wealth has been built on government investment, and to remain economically competitive, New York State must invest in education and infrastructure. They are willing to pay taxes at a higher rate to enable the state to make those investments.” Responsible Wealth members lobbied for the original millionaires’ tax in 2009 and the extension in 2011. If the millionaires’ tax were to expire, the top 1% would get a $3.7 billion annual tax windfall, which would put New York State back in the predicament it faced in 2009.

“Far from threatening to leave the state, it’s refreshing to see this many wealthy New Yorkers are willing to expand and make permanent the temporary top income tax rates set to expire at the end of this year,” said Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. “They support higher taxes on themselves so the state can fund our glaring human and physical infrastructure needs and have adequate revenue in place to handle pending federal cuts.”

Deutsch added, FPI’s “1% Plan for New York Tax Fairness” and the Assembly’s true millionaires’ tax have support from the very people who would be impacted by them, and they are saying they can more than afford an increase in the top marginal rates.”

The question of whether to extend, expand, make permanent, or end the current millionaires’ tax is central to the budget debate currently playing out in Albany. Governor Cuomo has said he supports extension of the millionaires’ tax at current levels; the Assembly-passed plan calls for setting new brackets and higher rates; the Senate majority currently opposes extension of the millionaires’ tax. These wealthy New Yorkers echo the sentiments of the general public who, according to recent public opinion polls, don’t want to see the millionaires’ tax expire.

The Fiscal Policy Institute (www.fiscalpolicy.org) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education organization committed to improving policies and practices to better the economic and social conditions of all New Yorkers. Founded in 1991, FPI works to create a strong economy in which prosperity is broadly shared.

Responsible Wealth (www.responsiblewealth.org) is a project of United for a Fair Economy (UFE). UFE engages in state and federal policy debates, provides trainings and support for economic justice organizers across the nation, and publishes illuminating reports. United for a Fair Economy is a national, independent, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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PDF of FPI’s NYS Tax Structure Policy Brief

PDF of Letter to Governor Cuomo

PDF of Press Release

Upper Income New Yorkers Support Expanding the Millionaires Tax

Dear Governor Cuomo and Legislative Leaders,

We are upper‐income New Yorkers who treasure the quality of life in our state. However, we are deeply concerned that too many New Yorkers are struggling economically, and the state’s ailing infrastructure is in desperate need of attention. We cannot afford to ignore these challenges.

As business leaders and investors, we know that the long-term stability and growth of a company requires investments in both its human capital and physical infrastructure. The same is true for our state.

It is a shameful fact that child poverty in New York State is at an unacceptably high level, exceeding 50 percent in some of our urban centers. New York State has a record number of homeless families – more than 80,000 people – struggling to survive across the state. And far too many adults in our state do not have the work skills needed for the 21st century economy.

Now is the time to invest in the long-term economic viability of New York. We need to invest in pathways out of poverty and up the economic ladder for all our fellow citizens, including strong public education from pre-K to college. And, we need to invest in the fragile bridges, tunnels, waterlines, public buildings, and roads that we all depend on. These human and physical infrastructure investments will pay off in the creation of new jobs, a workforce prepared to fill them, and a reduction in the extreme income inequality that currently exists in our state.

The question is: how do we pay for those investments? In the spirit of shared sacrifice, we, the undersigned, call for a balanced solution that includes maintaining, expanding, and making permanent the top marginal income tax rates for upper-income New Yorkers, like us, who can afford to pay more. Specifically, we urge the Governor and the Legislature to implement the “1% Plan for New York Tax Fairness”, which calls for new marginal rates of 7.65%, 8.82%, 9.35%, 9.65% and 9.99% for brackets starting at $665,000, $1 million, $2 million, $10 million and $100 million, respectively. The 1% Plan would generate much-needed revenue and address New York’s worst-in-the-nation income inequality.

The current millionaires’ tax brings in approximately $3.7 billion per year from those of us most able to pay taxes; the Fiscal Policy Institute’s 1% Plan would bring in an additional $2.2 billion in revenue above the current surcharge. Given the unmet education and infrastructure needs in our state and the likelihood of major federal funding cuts in the near future, it is critical that New York enacts and makes permanent a more progressive income tax structure.

We also support the plan recently advanced by the Assembly that offers a similar approach, with new brackets starting at $1 million and rates ranging from 8.82% to 10.32%

As New Yorkers who have contributed to and benefited from the economic vibrancy of our state, we have both the ability and the responsibility to pay our fair share. We can well afford to pay our current taxes, and we can afford to pay even more. Our state needs to invest this revenue in our struggling schools, in anti-poverty measures and in infrastructure improvements. Our state’s long‐term economic prosperity depends on strong investments in our people and our communities.

Everyone does better when everyone does better. We urge Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to expand the current millionaires’ tax and ensure that upper-income New Yorkers like us keep doing their part to invest in our state.

Signed,

Sonia Alexander, NYC * Marc Baum, NYC * Elyse Arnow-Brill and Joshua Arnow, Pound Ridge * Lawrence B. Benenson, NYC * Roy Berberich, Mineola * Richard Berkenfeld, Bayside * Steven Berkenfeld, Melville * Leonore Blitz, NYC * Jessica Brackman, NYC * Polly Cleveland and Thomas Haines, NYC * Debra Cooper, NYC * Arthur Cornfield, NYC * Louis B. Cullman and Louise Hirshfeld Cullman, NYC * Pierce Delahunt, NYC * Anne Delaney, NYC * Abigail Disney, NYC * Edith Everett, NYC * Eileen Fisher, Irvington * Barbara Fleischman, NYC * Sarah Frank, NYC * Rosemary Faulkner, NYC * Bob Fertik, NYC * Dr. Gail Furman, NYC * Elspeth Gilmore, NYC * Steven & Mary Goldring, NYC * Adelaide Gomer, Ithaca * Daniel Greenberg and Karen Nelson, NYC * Agnes Gund, NYC * Catherine Gund, NYC * Leo Hindery, Jr., NYC * Polly Howells and Eric Werthman, Glenford * Lawrence Hui, NYC * Marion Hunt, NYC * Craig Kaplan & Anne Hess, NYC * Sarah & Victor Kovner, NYC * Robert Krinsky, NYC * Dal LaMagna, NYC * Ruth & David A. Levine, NYC * Michael A. and Ann Ross Loeb, NYC * Helen Lowenstein, Larchmont * Joshua Mailman, NYC * James & Jacqueline Mann, Mt. Kisco, NYC * Mark Nelkin, NYC * Jan Nicholson, NYC * Susan Ochshorn and Marc I. Gross, NYC * Chet and Karen Opalka, Averill Park * Morris Pearl, NYC * Richard Perl, NYC * Seth Perlman, NYC * Karen Pittelman, NYC * Mark Reed, NYC * Sophie Robinson, NYC * Steven C. Rockefeller, NYC * Sandra Rothenberg and David Ryder, Rochester * Darius A. Ross, NYC * James & Laura Ross, NYC * Martin Rothenberg, Syracuse * Deborah Sagner, NYC * Lindsay Shea, Germantown * Sandra Siegel, NYC * Daniel A. Simon, NYC * George Soros, Katonah * Lynn Stern, NYC * Sarah Stranahan, NYC * Peter Strugatz, East Hampton * Ariane van Buren, NYC * Tanja Wechsler, NYC

Times Union Opinion: Expand tax credit for low-income workers in New York

By Ron Deutsch and Reg Foster, Commentary

Published, Albany Times Union 5:25 pm, Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A young woman juggling an entry-level administrative job and classes at a community college; a divorced dad working 40 hours a week as a custodian to help support his two kids; a veteran trying to make a living back home after serving our country overseas: They, and millions of other hard-working Americans, struggle to make ends meet because their jobs pay low wages.

In fact, 466,000 workers in New York not raising children in the home — and 7.5 million workers across the nation — are currently taxed into or deeper into poverty, largely because they are left out of the Earned Income Tax Credit that families with children in the home receive. Once taxes are taken, many are actually left below the poverty line.  (read more)

March 2017 NYC Budget Presentation

In his briefing on Mayor deBlasio’s Preliminary FY 2018 NYC Budget, James Parrott highlights the following:

Cautious in face of an uncertain Washington: Federal aid is 1/3 of State budget (which is 18% of City budget); 8-10 % of City budget; 64% of NYCHA budget; and nearly half of the Health and Hospitals budget.

State budget better this year, but still challenges: Governor proposed to extend millionaires tax, but it should be enhanced; threat to CFE-settlement determined school aid; handful of negative budget impacts for NYC.

Before Trump’s budget outline and the proposed American Health Care Act (Trumpcare), the preliminary City budget looked reasonable: Manageable budget gaps, reasonable reserves and moderate revenue growth in the context of slower job growth with wage and income growth improving.

Parrott summarized some of the initiatives taken by the deBlasio administration that reduce income inequality and outlined additional actions that could be taken. He also noted that the extended recovery and low unemployment are starting to provide real gains for workers and their families, noting the following indicators: NYC’s unemployment rate fell to 4.5% in January, the lowest level on record since 1976; real median household income rose 5.1% in 2015; from 2013-16, real wages have increased by 7.1% for workers at the 1st decile in the wage distribution, and by 8.4% for workers at the median; and for black workers over this period, real wages at the 1st decile rose 8.9%, and for the median black worker, 14.5%. Latino workers also saw significant, but smaller, real wage gains.

PDF of full budget presentation here.

Trump’s Merit-Based Immigration Plan Could Mean a Smaller Buffalo

March 14, 2017. In an article featured in the Buffalo News, impacts on Buffalo due to President Trump’s possible merit-based immigration plan are discussed such as population decline, a smaller tax-base, an older population and a decrease in availability of workers for jobs that pay lower wages. FPI’s David Dyssegaard Kallick was quoted discussing the impact Trump’s merit based immigration plan would have on the workforce.

Trump asked the two senators to work on adding a merit-based component to their bill. Under such a system, would-be immigrants would be awarded points based on their education and skills, and the people with high point scores would be allowed to move to the United States.

That would mean America would welcome the kind of highly skilled immigrants who work at places like the University at Buffalo and the Buffalo Medical Campus – but few others.

And while those immigrants are the ones Trump most wants to crack down on, even that could cause economic complications. Farmers already complain to Western New York members of Congress that they may lose the foreign-born workforce they need to bring in the crops, which, on occasion, includes undocumented immigrants.

Other employers who  offer low-wage jobs face the same worry, said David D. Kallick, a fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute who has studied undocumented immigrants in the state.

“They feel it’s going to be very difficult to replace these workers,” Kallick said. “They are pretty confident they are not going to find the U.S.-based workforce.”

Here is the link to The Buffalo News.

Billing the Benefits

March 13, 2017. FPI’s David Dyssegaard Kallick was quoted in an article, featured in the Manhattan Times, discussing the tax and economic contributions of undocumented immigrants and the effects a mass deportation program could possibly have in New York State. 

David Dyssegaard Kallick, Director of the Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative, said that tax revenue would increase by another $247 million a year if those people were able to work legally.

The report also predicted that a policy of mass deportation would cause a huge disruption in the state’s economy. Kallick said he believes that if the undocumented immigrants currently in New York were removed, the total loss would be much more than billions of dollars in tax revenue and economic output.

As an example, he pointed to the decline in tourism that already has begun as some foreign travelers avoid visiting the United States. While the Trump administration has indicated it may back off from its extreme stance on immigration enforcement, Kallick noted that the threat of deportation still hangs over the heads of an estimated 817,000 people in New York.

“That’s more than the entire population of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers combined,” he said. “It would be an enormous undertaking and it would be, I think, hugely disruptive and really kind of horrifying.”

Here is the link to the Manhattan Times.

Charita Goshay: The Golden Door Swings Both Ways

March 12, 2017. FPI’s immigrant business ownership statistics were cited in an article arguing that hostility, violence and anger against immigrants is not “American” and that the door, referred to as the “Golden Door,” which is shutting immigrants out can be used to leave and find a more homogeneous home.

We now are in the midst of mosque burnings, and a series of bomb threats aimed at Jewish facilities across the country, not to mention the cemeteries that have been vandalized. The seepage of anti-Semitism, once relegated to the fever swamps occupied by the fringe, is trying to make its way back into the daylight.

There is a belief that to allow immigration is to put ourselves in danger and out of work when the facts bear out that immigrant communities experience less crime than others, and immigrants create far more jobs than they take.

Though immigrants make up just 13 percent of the population, they create 30 percent of all small businesses, the chief driver of new jobs, according to the Pew Research Center and the Fiscal Policy Institute.

Here is the link to the Canton Rep.

Letter: Immigrants, refugees greatly benefit region

March 10, 2017. A letter was featured in The Buffalo News in response to FPI’s David Dyssegaard and International Institute of Buffalo’s executive director, Eva Hassett’s op-ed discussing refugee’s contributions to Buffalo’s economic revitalization and the need for funding for resettlement agencies facing federal funding cuts.

Regarding the Sunday Viewpoints article about refugees, by David Dyssegaard Kallick and Eva Hassett: I hope many people read it and heard the message, that refugees are good for the Buffalo and Western New York economies. We, as Americans, are shooting ourselves in the foot by making it more difficult for immigrants and refugees to come here.

Personally, my family has welcomed people of different cultures into our home for many years – not because it was good for our household’s bottom line, but because it was a joy to learn about them and their cultures. Let’s continue to welcome refugees and immigrants to Western New York because it’s good for our economy and good for our souls.

Rebecca Hyde

Here is the link to The Buffalo News.

The link to the op-ed is here.

2017 Budget Forum, Elmira, NY

March 8, 2017 – Fiscal Policy Institute Holds Information Session

ELMIRA, N.Y. (18 NEWS) – The Fiscal Policy Institute, a group affiliated with the labor movement offered an information session on the state budget at Catholic Charities in Downtown Elmira on Wednesday.

One major issue discussed was the millionaires’ tax, which is set to expire at the end of this year. State legislators can let it expire, extend it as is, or expand it.

The Fiscal Policy Institute claims expanding the millionaires’ tax would largely affect downstate taxpayers, but would benefit upstate taxpayers. They said expanding the tax could providing more funding for things schools, hospitals and healthcare.

“Given the fact that New York has the greatest income inequality of any state in the country and the wealthiest 1% New Yorkers tend to pay a much smaller percentage of their income in state and local taxes than do the middle class and the working class in this state,” Ron Deutsch. “So we think there’s room to expand the millionaires’ tax.”

Deutsch said expanding the millionaires’ tax would both address income inequality and the unmet needs across the state. Despite claims that taxing millionaires would drive them away, Deutsch said 33 percent more millionaires are living in New York since the tax was put in place.

Click here to see the news coverage.

GUEST VIEW: Refugees Good for Utica’s Economic Development

March 8, 2017. In an op-ed, FPI’s David Dyssegaard Kallick and executive director of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, Shelly Callahan, argue that refugee resettlement is good for Utica’s economic revitalization.

Immigrants and refugees are already reversing population loss. Over the past 15 years, Utica finally turned around its population decline, stabilizing and even squeaking out a little bit of population growth, according to Census Bureau estimates. Look a little deeper, though, and you’ll see a story about the importance of refugees and immigrants. Between 2000 and 2015, the U.S.-born population dropped by 3,100. That loss was offset by growth of 3,500 in the foreign-born population–and in Utica, a big share of that is about refugees.

Refugees need support to get established, but do well once on their feet. A recent national study by the Fiscal Policy Institute and Center for American Progress shows this for Somali, Burmese, Hmong and Bosnian refugee communities. The study showed that refugees get jobs quickly and make substantial gains in earnings over time. Homeownership rates are high: three of the four refugee groups studied had higher rates of home ownership than U.S.-born families after 10 years.

Here’s the link to Utica’s Observer Dispatch.

Policy Brief: Expand the Millionaires’ Tax and Address New York’s Worst-in-the-Nation Income Inequality

March 7, 2017. The millionaires’ tax is New York’s fiscal Swiss Army knife, a tool that addresses many different needs. It helps fund important priorities, balance the New York State budget, respond to heightened income inequality, and lessen the overall regressive state and local tax structure. And it is very much needed in New York today.

PDF of full Policy Brief