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Activists across New York to demand Cuomo tax the rich


Across New York on Thursday, activists will convene on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's offices to demand the governor support a plan to tax the wealthy in order to fill in a state budget gap.

In Rochester, organizers from Free the People Roc, alongside the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Rochester City-Wide Tenant Union, will join at the governor's office on Andrews Street at 1 p.m. Similar demonstrations will be held at the same time in Buffalo, New York, and Albany.

In January, Rochester's Democratic state representatives voiced their support for a a plan dubbed the "Invest in Our New York Act."

“This is one of those things, it’s not us versus them, it’s about us working together collectively to protect New York state,” Assemblymember Demond Meeks said, at a news conference in January announcing the act. “...We know the challenges we face here in the Rochester community, and they’ve just been exacerbated as they relate to the pandemic.”
Demond Meeks represents the 137th Assembly District. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • Demond Meeks represents the 137th Assembly District.

Under an early proposal of the plan, individuals with incomes exceeding $300,000 and married couples with incomes exceeding $450,000 would see tax hikes, which get progressively larger moving up the income brackets. The act also includes a new capital gains tax of 9-17 percent, a 5 percent tax on inheritances over $250,000, a small tax on Wall Street transactions, and a new corporate tax that will offset a federal break given to large companies during Donald Trump’s presidency.

The act would provide $4 billion for rent assistance during the pandemic, $6 billion to fund public schools, and $3.5 billion to fund unemployment benefits for those who do not qualify for federal assistance, namely immigrants.

Activists also see potential to use funds to provide aid in the opioid epidemic and increase services for the homeless.

New York is currently facing a $15 billion budget shortfall, which is projected to snowball into a $63 billion gap over the next four years.

In his budget proposal, Cuomo offered his own version of wealth taxing. Under his plan, five graduated tax brackets would be added for those making over $5 million per year, capping at a 10.82 percent tax on those making over $1 billion per year, which he described as the "largest income tax in the nation."

However, in January, Cuomo expressed reservations about his own plan, fearing it may cause the ultra-rich to flee the state. Cuomo and his budget director, Robert Mujica, said the plan would be a last-ditch effort if federal aid doesn't come through.

If we have the federal money, then there isn’t a need necessarily to raise those taxes,” Mujica said, in January.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or [email protected].