Progressive lawmakers in New York on Thursday demanded that Gov. Andrew Cuomo impose a tax on the states' billionaires in order to support immigrant workers who have been excluded from relief measures.
As U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) explained in a video released by the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition Thursday, the state is home to 118 billionaires whose wealth has exploded since the pandemic began in March, amassing a collective $556 billion net worth while millions of New Yorkers struggle to pay their rent and afford other necessities.
"For so long we've been bailing out corporations," said state Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, who represents Upper Manhattan. "Covid has shown us that the most vulnerable people in our community, they too deserve to be bailed out."
Ocasio-Cortez and De La Rosa were joined in the video by New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, and state Sen. Jessica Ramos, who sponsored a bill to tax billionaires. The Billionaire Mark to Market Tax Act (S8277) is currently in committee.
"The worker bailout that I'm proposing does two things," Ramos said in the video. "It imposes a tax on the unrealized capital gains of billionaires, and we take that money to fund a bailout for workers that were left out of salary subsidy programs."
Jamaal Bowman, who won the Democratic primary in New York's 16th congressional district last month and is expected to win the general election, expressed his support for the campaign.
— Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) July 16, 2020
In the video, the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition spoke with several immigrants in New York who have been ineligible for unemployment insurance during the pandemic—even as 74% of the immigrants of color surveyed by the group reported job loss—or for the $1,200 direct payment sent to some Americans.
"The millionaires and the rich people of the world should pay what's fair to provide relief for the working class community," said one man interviewed in the video.
The lawmakers took aim at Cuomo, whose proposed budget in April included cuts to Medicaid even as the Covid-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc on New York City and the surrounding area, leaving hospitals and healthcare workers overwhelmed and under-resourced.
At the time, a video of Niou condemning the budget on the state Assembly floor was circulated widely on social media.
"What we need is not the cuts proposed by our governor but strong investments in our infrastructure and the public assets that could have mitigated this crisis had we only been willing to fund them previously," Niou said at the time.
Passing Ramos' billionaires' tax would enable "equitable taxation" in New York State, Williams said in the video Thursday.
"It's frustrating to see a governor who will say, 'I'd rather cut Medicaid, I'd rather force municipalities to cut the school budget, to cut access to the lifelines these communities need,'" said Williams.
"But something like a billionaires' tax, he simply won't entertain."
The tax would help support families "who are facing housing insecurity, food insecurity, and more," Ocasio-Cortez said.
The congresswoman addressed Cuomo directly at the end of the video.
"Gov. Cuomo, we need you to pass a billionaires' tax in order to make sure that we're providing for our working families," she said. "It's time to stop protecting billionaires and it's time to start working for working families."