Millionaires Ask New York To 'Raise Our Taxes' To Curb Poverty, But The GOP Is Against It

Shelley Hazen

Forty New York millionaires are asking the governor to do something utterly unexpected.

In the "spirit of shared sacrifice," they want the state to raise their taxes to combat poverty and repair infrastructure for one simple reason: they can afford to pay more, the Washington Post reported.

And if that wasn't enough, this group of millionaires, which includes a fourth-generation Rockefeller and a Disney, want working class families' tax rates lowered. The group's intention was clear.

"We can well afford to pay our current taxes, and we can afford to pay even more…. Everyone does better when everyone does better."

In an open letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the contingent of one-percenters asked for Cuomo and legislators to replace a temporary millionaires tax with a permanent measure to raise their taxes. However, as New York grapples over its 2016-17 budget, GOP lawmakers already crushed hopes that the request would be enacted.

But that's precisely what this trailblazing group is telling lawmakers they should be doing. Their pockets are deep, their argument goes, and the state has a mound of problems that need fixing. Only money will do it, and they have plenty.

Their proposal would raise New York's income tax revenue by $2.2 billion.

The millionaires have asked the state to raise their taxes in conjunction with a think tank called the Fiscal Policy Institute and Responsible Wealth Project. The meat of their plan is to establish a permanent tax on the wealthy, starting at people who make $665,000 a year, to replace a temporary one that will expire this year.

In addition, the group wants tax rates for working families lowered, permanently, to a range of 4 to 6.85 percent. If the lower rates for those in poverty and the higher ones for the rich expire, middle-class families will see a $1 billion tax increase and the richest a $3.7 billion windfall.

If the millionaires' call to raise their taxes succeeds, their money will be invested in poverty programs and infrastructure, where it is most desperately needed. As Lewis Cullman, who runs the company that makes those "At-A-Glance" appointment books, pointed out, philanthropy doesn't generally pay for government services or for programs that alleviate poverty, the Guardian added.

Starting at the $665,000-bracket, the state's wealthiest people would have their taxes raised to somewhere between 7.65 and 9.99 percent. Those who make over $100 million would pay tax rates at the highest end of that range.

"We need to invest in pathways out of poverty and up the economic ladder for all of our fellow citizens, including strong public education from pre-K to college. And, we need to invest in the fragile bridges, tunnels, waterlines, public buildings, and roads that we all depend on."

The group considered child poverty a particularly shameful reality. In their call to Cuomo to raise their taxes, they noted that poverty among the youngest New Yorkers is now at a "record level, exceeding 50% in some of our urban centers. New York State has a record number of homeless families – more than 80,000 people – struggling to survive across the state. And far too many adults in our state do not have the work skills needed for the 21st-century economy."

The state's wealthiest people contend that raising taxes will not only help alleviate poverty and improve public infrastructure, it could mean more jobs for everyone.

"These human and physical infrastructure investments will pay off in the creation of new jobs, a workforce prepared to fill them and a reduction in the extreme income inequality that currently exists in our state."

As it debates the next budget, the legislature is currently arguing a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, 12-week paid family leave, and measures to curb corruption.

[Image via STILLFX/Shutterstock]