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"Those of us in the top 1 percent of incomes," one businessman argued, "have a particular responsibility to contribute to the public sector at a higher marginal tax rate than everyone else." (Photo: Philip Taylor/flickr/cc)

New York's Millionaires to Governor Cuomo: 'Raise our Taxes, Please'

More than forty of New York's richest residents are asking the state's top politicians for higher taxes, to 'pave our streets, build airports, inspect our food, and educate all our children'

Nika Knight Beauchamp

Over forty of the richest residents of New York recently penned an open letter to Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York state legislature asking to pay more in taxes.

"In the last thirty-five years, there’s been an enormous widening in pre-tax income," stated an economist at an asset management firm who signed the letter. "The fact that public policy has contributed to widening the gap is shameful."

Noting the record-level of child poverty and homelessness in the state of New York, the letter's signers "call for a balanced solution that includes maintaining, expanding, and making permanent the top marginal income tax rates for upper-income New Yorkers like us who can afford to pay more."

The letter, whose signers included members of the Rockefeller and Disney families, was made public on Monday. It was a coordination between the Fiscal Policy Institute, which describes itself as "an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education organization committed to improving public policies and private practices to better the economic and social conditions of all New Yorkers," and Responsible Wealth, a project of the economic justice group United for a Fair Economy.

One signer was Lewis Cullman, inventor of both leveraged buyouts and At-a-Glance™ calendars, who said, "I have given most of my money away to charity...but there are many important things that philanthropy just doesn’t do, and can’t do—like pave our streets, build airports, inspect our food, and educate all our children, just to name a few."

The letter advocates for a tax plan dubbed the "1% Plan for New York Tax Fairness," which "calls for new tax rates ranging from 7.65 percent to 9.99 percent applied to new tax brackets starting at $665,000, the income threshold for the top 1 percent of New Yorkers."

It also argues for keeping the lower tax rates currently in place for lower- and middle-income residents of New York.

The Associated Press reported:

Currently, single filers making more than $1,062,000 pay the state’s top rate of 8.82 percent. Under the one-percent plan, the 8.82 rate would apply to anyone making $1 million to $2 million, and higher rates of 9.35 percent, 9.65 percent and 9.99 percent would apply to those making $2 million to $10 million, $10 million to $100 million and more than $100 million, respectively.

Their proposal faces significant political obstacles in the state Legislature. While the Democratic majority in the Assembly has its own plan to increase taxes on millionaires, the Republican-led Senate opposes the idea. Lawmakers are now negotiating the details of the state budget and hope to have a deal in place by April 1.

An existing, lower tax on millionaires is set to expire next year.

"If the temporary tax rates at all levels are allowed to expire," the letter reads, "it will mean a $1 billion dollar tax increase for middle class families and a $3.7 billion dollar windfall tax cut for millionaires like us."

Image: Fiscal Policy Institute

While the letter's signers advocate for higher taxes on the wealthy, most of the nation's richest have manipulated and dodged the government's attempts to tax them fairly, as Common Dreams has reported. But most Americans agree with Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders that the wealthiest 1 percent should be taxed far more aggressively than they are today.

"Those of us in the top 1 percent of incomes," Cullman argued, "have a particular responsibility to contribute to the public sector at a higher marginal tax rate than everyone else."

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