Queens Daily Eagle: Gianaris touts tax hike for wealthiest New Yorkers

Originally published in Queens Daily Eagle on April 14, 2021.

Queens State Sen. Michael Gianaris touted a tax hike on the wealthiest New Yorkers Tuesday during a budget briefing before the Queens Borough Board.

New York lawmakers increased the tax rate on the richest residents following years of advocacy among Queens progressives, including Gianaris, the senate’s deputy majority leader. Gov. Cuomo consistently blocked the proposal, contending that it would drive wealthy residents out of the state and decrease the overall tax base. 

With his power weakened by multiple scandals, Cuomo relented to the tax hike this time around. Gianaris called that a win for the state.

“We thought it was appropriate to ask them to help fund the recovery, help fund some of these priorities and do it in a way that is sustainable,” Gianaris said.

The tax rate will rise from 8.82 percent to 9.65 percent for individuals who earn $1 million a year and couples that make $2 million. The very rich will see an even bigger hike: individuals making more than $5 million will be taxed at a 10.3 percent clip. New Yorkers making more than $25 million will pay 10.9 percent.

Progressives who backed the increase say it will generate more than $4 billion in revenue for the state. Opponents say it will drive the wealthy out of New York.

Gianaris said the increase will fund multiple measures designed to help New York 

More than $2 billion is allocated for rent relief, which Gianaris said will help renters and small landlords alike to “get the bills paid … with minimal displacement.”

The budget enacted by the state April 6 is boosted by $12 billion from the federal government, with funding for education, rent relief and small businesses on the list of priorities.

“We’re very excited about it,” Gianaris said. “This is a very unique budget for us there's a lot of things in here many of us have been training to get done for a very long time [and] we were able to actually do it this year.”

New York City schools will receive $4.5 billion in aid over the next three years, eliciting praise from community board leaders on the virtual meeting.

“We are ecstatic here,” said Community Board 6 District ManagerFrank Gulliscio. “It's been 15 years we’ve been fighting for that bill, we’ve been horribly under budgeted throughout all the districts in Queens in particular but finally.”

“I almost couldn’t believe it when we got it done,” Gianaris responded.

Federal funding will be used to jumpstart various initiatives, including the excluded workers fund, but it will be up to New York to figure out how to keep the programs going. 

The “millionaire” tax increase will be used to supplement them over the years, Gianaris said. 

More than $2 billion will also go toward direct rent relief payments. Gianaris said the fund will help renters and small landlords alike “get the bills paid … with minimal displacement.”

“We have our work cut out for us to make sure the money gets to the people who need it,” Gianaris said.

Read the full article here at the Queens Daily Eagle.