Advocates for a progressive tax policy held a midday news conference at the Capitol to offer their own give-point plan ahead of the anticipated release of a report from the second of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax-reform advisory committees. The first released their recommendations last week; the second panel, chaired by former Comptroller Carl McCall and former Gov. George Pataki, is expected to make their suggestions on changes to the property tax structure next month.
On hand were Ron Deutsch of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, Frank Mauro of the Fiscal Policy Institute, Karen Scharff of Citizen Action and Mike Kink of the Strong Economy for All Coalition.
The advocates at the Tuesday event want to see higher income tax rates for those in the top brackets, reversing what they say is decades of tweaks to the system that have only served to widen the income inequality gap in the state; the closing of corporate loopholes to end a similar situation among businesses; greater accountability in the granting of state tax credits to aid development and job creation; and changes to the property tax system that would ease the burden on localities and alleviate the pressure on homeowners whose income can’t keep up with their tax bills.
Few of these suggestions are new, which begged the question (or at least it did for me) of what the groups were planning in the way of new strategies to press their case in 2014 — a year in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers are not likely to be in a revenue-raising mood.
The answers, as you can see in the video below, were Bill de Blasio, grassroots campaign, and the premise of the question is flawed.
Here’s the joint press release offering more on the coalition’s five-point plan:
A broad array of organizations came together in Albany today to urge our elected leaders and the Pataki/McCall Tax Commission to adopt five tax reforms that would ease the pressure on the property tax and begin to address the incredible problems our state is facing in terms of income inequality and poverty.
In the wake of last week’s release of the Solomon/McCall Tax Commission report, the groups said that any discussion of fair taxation in New York must acknowledge that our state has the greatest income inequality in the nation and that our tax system is partially to blame. They pointed out that New York State is experiencing record child poverty rates and levels of hunger and homelessness that are unprecedented. Our schools are underfunded and our cities are struggling. The groups also emphasized that too many of our residents are suffering and struggling to make ends meet and are paying inordinate amounts of their income in property taxes.
The groups issued a 5-point plan that would address structural problems with the current income tax rates; close many corporate loopholes; provide accountability and transparency for our system of tax subsidies and economic development grants; provide increased funding for our schools, municipalities and social safety net programs; and provide immediate, targeted property tax relief for struggling families.
“Yesterday’s Siena Poll showed that New Yorkers priorities center around supporting education and tax cuts. Our plan seeks to give the people of this state exactly what they want, tax cuts for struggling homeowners and funding for education. Under our plan, the vast majority of overburdened New Yorkers would see a tax cut and increased funds for their schools and communities. It’s a win-win for New York. All we have to do is build the political will to get it done,” said Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness.
“New York State’s current tax system is built upon a strong preference for the very rich and a shameful willingness to let the majority of New Yorkers struggle needlessly with issues of quality education, critical community resources, and astronomical property taxes compared to income,” stated Sara Niccoli, Executive Director, Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS. “There is a basic moral concept across Christianity, Islam, Judaism and all the major religions: honor your debts, pay what you owe. The wealthiest among us owe a debt to the communities that brought them prosperity and lawmakers need to finally hold them to account.”
Restore the Progressivity of the Personal Income Tax
“Over the past 30 years New York State has cut the permanent top rate of the Personal Income Tax in half. The top one percent of New Yorkers have reaped 95 percent of all the income gains since the Great Recession. Its time to reverse this trend and ask those that have done the best in our society to pay a slightly higher rate so we can address many of the glaring problems we face here in New York State,” said Wayne Bayer, Vice President, Public Employees Federation.
“New York needs to restore its top two personal income tax rates to at least their 2009 through 2011 levels. Despite claims to the contrary, these rates did not fuel a reduction of New York’s share of the nation’s highest income taxpayers. In fact, IRS data shows that New York’s share of the nation’s highest income taxpayers and its share of the income of those high income taxpayers increased substantially between 2000 and 2010, ,” said Frank Mauro, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. The IRS’s state-by-state data, which is available at http://www.irs.gov/uac/SOI-Tax-Stats—Historic-Table-2, shows that over that 10-year period, the number of federal taxpayers with an annual gross income (AGI) above $1 million increased 17 percent nationally but 39 percent in New York State; and the amount of these taxpayers’ AGI increased 21 percent nationally but 57 percent for federal taxpayers from New York.
Closing Corporate Loopholes
“If NYS government is going to demonstrate that it can take strong action to fight inequality, closing a billion dollars worth of corporate loopholes is a very good place to start,” said Michael Kink, Executive Director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition. “Government should work for all of us, not just the CEO campaign contributors that can wrangle special loopholes regular people can’t get.”
Accountability for Tax Credits/Economic Development Subsidies
“NY spends $7 billion a year on tax subsidies to corporations in the name of job creation and economic development, and too much of this money is failing to create jobs,” said Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN. “This back-door, off-budget spending should be part of any serious tax reform discussion. We need solutions like the JOBS Act to recapture wasteful subsidy spending and make sure New Yorkers get their money’s worth.”
Ease the Pressure on the Property Tax – Provide More State Funding for Schools, Cities and Safety Net Programs
“When our leaders in Albany are saying they can’t afford to provide our children with the quality education they need and deserve, there’s no room for tax cuts for the wealthy and privileged few,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “Our students don’t need excuses. They need the opportunity to succeed.”
“Our priorities are really backwards when we are starving our schools while giving away billions in corporate welfare,” said Marina Marcou-O’Malley, Policy Director of the Alliance for Quality Education. “To make matters worse, Governor Cuomo has charged George Pataki to design $2-3 billion in tax cuts. Instead, why don’t we invest in our schools to make sure that all students have the opportunity to learn and succeed in life?”
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