State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Tuesday that raising taxes by $8 billion will help New York recover from the “cataclysmic” impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) defended the Democratic-led Senate’s proposed tax hikes on the wealthy income taxpayers, investors and corporations despite the state coffers receiving an federal infusion of $12.6 billion under the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package.
“We’re asking people who have a lot more to help a little more to make sure our recovery is a sustainable recovery,” Stewart Cousins said, during a virtual press briefing with reporters.
“There is so much we need to do. I’m confident that we are setting ourselves for a recovery not just for a few, but for everyone.”
She lauded the federal aid to help New York “heal” from the devastation caused by the pandemic. But she said it wasn’t enough to meet the pressing needs of citizens or put Albany on a stable financial footing.
US. Senate Charles Schumer, the senate majority leader in Congress, said the federal aid going to Albany wipes out the state’s projected budget deficit, suggesting state tax hikes aren’t needed.
The nearly identical tax hikes proposed by fellow Democrats in both the state Senate and Assembly to boost spending by more than 20 percent poses a major challenge to weakened, scandal-scarred Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
For the first time during his decade-long tenure in office, Cuomo faces a potential veto-proof majority in both houses of the legislature to override any budget bills he rejects — if Democrats stick together.
Stewart-Cousins said she hasn’t even personally spoken to the governor about adopting a new budget, which is due on April 1. She previously called on Cuomo to resign over his COVID-19 twin nursing home and sexual harassment accusation scandals.
Cuomo’s executive budget plan released in January proposing raising income taxes on the wealthy from a top rate of 8.82 percent to 10.8 percent to generate $1.5 billion. But that was before the federal relief package directed $12.6 billion to the state treasury.
The Senate and Assembly plans would raise the top income tax rate on the super-wealthy to 11.85 percent, and include a 1 percent tax on capital gains, a three percentage point increase in the corporate franchise tax and a two point jump in real estate taxes.
During an event on Long Island Monday, Cuomo cautioned about going overboard with tax increases.
“This is a very delicate moment…. There are significant revenue raising proposals. How you raise revenue can actually raise revenue or can cost you revenue,” said Cuomo, who has defiantly resisted calls to step down.
“If you’re not careful with the way you do it, you may actually lose money for the state because businesses and residents will make changes,” he said.
Business leaders and some budget watchdog said raising taxes is unnecessary and counterproductive and will cause taxpayers and businesses to flee.
But Stewart Cousins dismissed those concerns Tuesday.
“There is so much we need to do in these extraordinary times,” Stewart-Cousins said.
“We’ve seen the inequity in education and health care…. Businesses have been impacted. People are trying to hold on to their housing for dear life…. their homes for dear life.”
She said the state has to spend on education, housing, health care and other needs “the way we should.”