ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been begging rich people to return to New York City from their second-home retreats so they can pay taxes to help offset the state’s growing coronavirus-related revenue shortfall.
“I literally talk to people all day long who are now in their Hampton’s house who also lived here, or in their Hudson Valley house, or in their Connecticut weekend house, and I say, ‘You got to come back! We’ll go to dinner! I’ll buy you a drink! Come over, I’ll cook!’” the Democratic governor said Monday.
“They’re not coming back right now. And you know what else they’re thinking? ‘If I stay there, I’ll pay a lower income tax, because they don’t pay the New York City surcharge,” he added, noting the wealthiest one percent of the Empire State’s population picks up roughly 50 percent of the state’s tax burden.
The plea comes amidst dimming hopes that the federal government’s next COVID-19 relief package will contain any additional aid for struggling state and local governments.
If additional dollars don’t come to New York on top of waning revenue streams, Cuomo and other state officials have said the hit could translate to 20 percent cuts to health, education and local governments’ annual budget.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has said he’s not keen on raising taxes for the wealthy, adding it wouldn’t be enough to cover the state’s growing deficit — pegged at around $30 billion over the next two years.
But he’s at odds with leaders in the state Legislature — particularly state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) who last week diverged from Cuomo, arguing raising taxes on New York’s wealthiest is something they would consider and support.
The Democratic-run Legislature has been working on an alternative fiscal package over the last several weeks, in case Washington doesn’t pull through.
“They have to deliver. We have federal representatives, we have senators and we have congresspeople. We pay them to pass a piece of legislation that’s going to help New York. And it’s simple, if the federal legislature is not going to help New York, you know what I say to them? ‘Don’t pass it! It can’t pass without you! Don’t pass a piece of legislation that doesn’t restore New York’s funds,” the third-term Democrat continued Monday in a pointed jab at New York’s federal delegation.
“If you pass a piece of legislation that requires New York to raise taxes, raise a millionaires’ tax in this environment in New York City, where we’re struggling… We used to be worried [with a] millionaires tax, people might leave,” he continued.
“No. The burden shifted. We’re trying to get people to come back. We’re trying to get them to come back. Covid’s under control.”
“We’re going to make progress helping the homeless. We’re going to clean up the graffiti. We’re going to fix crime. On top of that, you’re going to say, ‘And by the way, when you come back, you get a big tax increase,” he added.
The dire picture is only compounded as the unemployment rate in the five boroughs hovers at 18 percent, over 80 percent of restaurants cannot meet monthly rent obligations and thousands could face eviction notices from landlords within the next couple months.
Additional reporting by Sam Raskin