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Labor Urges Governor, Legislative Leaders to Consider Tax Increases on Wealthy as Budget Negotiations Continue

Letter Notes “Substantial Support” For Raising Revenue From the Wealthy, Argues State Cannot Cut Healthcare, Other Vital Services
Saturday, March 28, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 27, 2020

Contact: Kenneth Londono Kenneth.Londono@berlinrosen.com, 917-574-8756

Labor Urges Governor, Legislative Leaders to Consider Tax Increases on Wealthy as Budget Negotiations Continue

Letter Notes “Substantial Support” For Raising Revenue From the Wealthy, Argues State Cannot Cut Healthcare, Other Vital Services

New York, NY – A group of eight unions and the state AFL-CIO, representing over 2.5 million workers, sent a letter urging Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins to raise taxes on the wealthy as they seek to finalize New York’s budget.  

The letter notes “substantial support among legislators for various revenue options, including a wealth tax on billionaires and an income tax surcharge on those earning over $5 million a year.” The unions note that tens of thousands of their members stand to lose their jobs due to the current crisis and argue that “without raising additional revenue from those who, notwithstanding the stock market decline, still have enormous financial resources, there will be devastating cuts to vital public services like health care, education, and social services for the impoverished.”   

The letter continues, “It goes without saying that at this moment, the state budget must do nothing that undermines the capacity of our already straining health care system.  But in a time of profound fear, insecurity and social crisis, all of our state social services must be bolstered to the greatest extent possible, not cut back.”

The budget is expected to be finalized in the coming days as the state faces an April 1st deadline. 

Full text of the letter:

Dear Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Heastie:

Let us begin by expressing our deepest appreciation for your leadership in recent weeks and months.  We know that you are working tirelessly every day to do everything humanly possible to minimize the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the people of New York State.

We write out of our deep concerns over the status of the FY 2021 state budget, concerns that we know you all share and are grappling with every day.  We have read recent reports about the enormous budget shortfall that will be inflicted on New York by the massive economic slowdown caused by Covid-19.

As budget negotiations move towards conclusion over the next several days, we urge you to keep every possible option on the table for reducing the impact of the budget crisis, including asking the wealthiest New Yorkers to do their fair share.  We fear that without raising additional revenue from those who, notwithstanding the stock market decline, still have enormous financial resources, there will be devastating cuts to vital public services like health care, education, and social services for the impoverished.  It goes without saying that at this moment, the state budget must do nothing that undermines the capacity of our already straining health care system.  But in a time of profound fear, insecurity and social crisis, all of our state social services must be bolstered to the greatest extent possible, not cut back.

Inevitably, all 19.5 million New Yorkers will have to tighten their belts to get through this crisis. 

But the impact of the crisis will undoubtedly fall hardest on those with the least resources—working and poor people, including many of the members we represent, tens of thousands of whom will lose their jobs.  New Yorkers have gotten through crises in the past by pulling together, and by everyone pitching in to do their fair share.  We believe the wealthiest among us share that common resolve, and would be willing to reach just a little deeper to help the State get through this challenging time.

There is substantial support among legislators for various revenue options, including a wealth tax on billionaires and an income tax surcharge on those earning over $5 million a year.  We urge that steps like these be on the table as you consider the best way to get New York through this frightening crisis.

Again, we know the difficulty of the challenges you face.  And we trust that you will act with the best interests of all New Yorkers in mind.  We thank you in advance for considering our suggestions and wish you success in the coming days.

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Signatories to the letter

Mario Cilento, New York State AFL-CIO

Dennis Trainor, Communications Workers of America District 1
Henry A. Garrido, District Council 37, AFSCME
Pat Kane, New York State Nurses Association
Andrew Pallotta, New York State United Teachers
Barbara Bowen, Professional Staff Congress
Stuart Appelbaum, Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union
Kyle Bragg, SEIU 32BJ
Beverley Brakeman, UAW Region 9A