Chants of “Tax the Rich” bellowed from those who gathered in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office as a new and broad coalition of different organizations launched today to persuade lawmakers in Albany to pass a total of six bills that would end tax breaks and increase taxes for the wealthiest of New Yorkers.
The coalition backing the legislation consists of leaders and members from over 100 different community groups, unions and grassroots organizations. The steering committee consists of groups such as Make the Road New York and the Working Families Party.
The Invest In Our New York Act is a package of six bills that are being introduced by a number of New York State Senators and Assembly Members, and the immediate aim of the act is to raise close to $50 billion so that the state can invest that money in public education, jobs, housing and healthcare.
Some of those elected officials, all Democrats, sponsoring or co-sponsoring the six bills spoke during the press conference; they took the opportunity to call on Governor Cuomo to support the legislation. The legislators return to Albany tomorrow where the Democrats, now in control of the Senate, will enjoy a supermajority, which means that they may be able to override any veto of the six bills by Governor Cuomo.
Starting off the press conference was the State Director of the New York Working Families Party, Sochie Nnaemeka, who first noted that the extremely wealthy in New York have only grown richer during the pandemic—$77 billion richer—while less fortunate New Yorkers have only experienced more financial distress.
“Right now, we know what the problem is—people in New York are hurting, and working class and poor New Yorkers, black and brown people, immigrants have borne the brunt of sickness and job loss,” said Nnaemeka.
“Over 1.4 million New Yorkers are facing eviction, 60 percent of New Yorkers have lost income [and] there’s nearly 1 million fewer jobs in New York state than there was the same time last year.”
She added that the passage of the bills represents no more important battle in Albany this year.
Following Nnaemeka was Jumaane Williams, the Public Advocate, who took the Governor to task for refusing to raise taxes on the wealthy while the pandemic has been raging since last year.
Indeed, leading progressives in New York have chided the Governor when New Jersey introduced a millionaire’s tax last fall. But that drew an immediate rebuttal from Cuomo’s Budget Director Robert Mujica, who said that New York already taxes the wealthy at a higher rate than New Jersey.
Still, noted Williams, the Governor should be using every tool available, especially in light of the lack of direct aid to states and local municipalities in the recently signed $900 coronavirus relief bill.
“Yes, we need federal government help, I will give you that. But even that alone won’t save this city and this state. What you have to do as Governor is use all the tools that are available to you. You have not done that ever.”
Augustina Velez, an organizer with Make the Road NY, summed up the feelings of many of those in attendance about the need for Cuomo to support the legislation.
“Families like mine find a way to pay our taxes, but the rich find a way to avoid them. Cuomo, tax the rich, fund excluded workers—my life, our lives, literally depend on this,” said Velez.