With the 2023 legislative session just around the corner, a group of politicians and organizations held rallies around the state earlier this month to push for a more progressive tax system that would hike tax rates for corporations and the ultra-wealthy.
The coalition called Invest in Our New York aims to pass a package of six bills, known collectively as the IONY Act, which would raise more than $50 billion by cutting tax breaks for the wealthiest New Yorkers.
“If we want to truly build a New York for all, we need to champion and enact policies that benefit working people,” Carolyn Martinez-Class, the campaign manager for this year’s IONY campaign, said in a statement. “We can’t keep up the status quo of giving handouts to billionaires at the expense of everyday New Yorkers and expect working-class families to make ends meet. We need real change, now.”
One of the bills would raise taxes on the wealthiest top 5 percent, which is anyone earning more than $300,000 a year.
“Millions of New Yorkers are going hungry, have difficulty paying their rent and utilities, and the burden of the effect is more significant for Black and Brown families and those with children,” said state Sen. Robert Jackson, who is the lead sponsor of the Progressive Income Tax Bill.
“It’s time for New York to make meaningful investments in working-class and middle-class communities.” Right now, those who make $25,000 a year are paying around the same income tax rate as someone who makes $1 million a year: 6.5 percent.
Another bill would create a tax on Wall Street financial transactions. According to the campaign, unlike other major financial centers such as London and Hong Kong, the state doesn’t have any tax for trading stocks and bonds.
In a similar vein, the group wants to pass legislation that would repeal then-President Donald Trump’s 2017 corporate-friendly tax cuts that reduced the federal corporate profit tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.
“New York can end these tax breaks in our state so that businesses pay the same tax as they did three years ago,” the campaign website reads.
It’s IONY’s hope that the tax stream generated from these updates to the tax system will then be put toward public education, childcare, and combating climate change. The group is also asking for $5.4 billion of that revenue to go toward alleviating the housing crisis.
“While New Yorkers struggle with the most unaffordable rents in the country and healthcare is inaccessible for too many families, it is imperative that our state budget prioritize the needs of working people,” state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who supports the campaign, said in a statement. “We cannot allow billionaires to get richer while communities like mine get left behind.”
IONY launched two years with the support of several progressive lawmakers and claims to have helped raised billions in annual supplemental revenue through policy changes to the 2021 state budget. That year, where Democrats had a supermajority in both houses, corporate taxes were increased from 6.5 percent to 7.25 percent and income taxes were raised about a percent on New York residents making more than $1 million a year.
A separate policy change created new tax brackets for the ultra-wealthy, distinguishing those who made between $5 million and $25 million a year from those making more than that.
That supplemental tax revenue went on to support some groundbreaking public programs. Most notably, $2.1 billion was set aside to provide unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrants during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Other support programs during the pandemic included $2.4 billion to an emergency rental assistance program, $1 billion to support small businesses, $400 million to restore Medicaid cuts, and $105 million to expand the universal pre-kindergarten program.
“This is the result of a movement that is sweeping that state bit by bit, piece by piece,” said Deputy state Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, soon after the 2021 budget had been finalized.
“This would not have happened if we had not had the Senate majority a couple years back.
“It would not have happened if we did not defeat the (Independent Democratic Conference) a couple years back. It would not have happened if we did not get the supermajority last election.”