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Poll: New Yorkers Think That Obscenely Rich People Should Pay Higher Taxes

Ahead of the legislature’s hearing on possible tax increases, a new poll finds wide support for the rich paying more.

9:40 AM EST on February 9, 2023

(Kristen Artz / City Hall)

When Governor Kathy Hochul announced her executive budget last week, she followed through on a promise she had been making for months—no new taxes on those who could most afford to pay them. Instead, New York would plug gaps in its budgets for essential services like mass transit through a new payroll tax that would target working people in New York City, supplemented by possible casino earnings (gleaned from, you guessed it, working New Yorkers). 

If you're wondering who was asking for any of this, you're not alone! In fact, according to a new poll, which Hell Gate had the first look at, most New Yorkers don't agree with a tax policy that asks them to pay more while the ultra-wealthy don't. 

The poll, commissioned by the Fund Our Future Tax Justice Initiative, which is part of the "Invest In Our New York" coalition pushing for higher taxes on New York's wealthiest, found that 84 percent of New Yorkers support implementing any type of income tax on billionaires, while 78 percent of New Yorkers polled want billionaires specifically to pay one percent of their net worth in taxes. Seventy-four percent of those polled also wanted people making $100 million each year to pay one percent of their net worth each year in taxes. The positive poll results for the tax policies cut across party lines, with 94 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans supporting higher taxation of New York's wealthiest.  

Invest In Our New York, is made up of progressive organizations throughout the state, and wants to raise $40 billion in this year's budget by taxing billionaires, millionaires, and corporations, and earmarking that money for needs like universal child care, affordable housing, an unemployment program for undocumented people, and tackling climate change. 

For Democrats in the legislature, the governor's budget shows a lack of urgency for working New Yorkers. 

"The gap between what we're doing and what people need is wide enough that we should be using people's needs to gauge if we're doing enough, and not just what we have done in the past," said freshman State Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha. "Because what we have done in the past is so lacking."

In 2021, the Invest In Our New York campaign helped push through tax increases on the state's wealthiest—and with no clear sign that the city's wealthiest are fleeing the city, are geared up to push for more.

"You talk to elected officials, you talk about increasing taxes on the ultra-rich at a time when corporate profits are at a record high, and the first thing they say is, 'Oh my god, the rich are going to leave,' but then when you look at who's actually leaving the city? It's low-income people of color," said Alicé Nascimento from New York Communities for Change, a member of the IONY coalition. 

Today, the legislature begins hearings on the state's revenues ahead of the legislature's own budget proposal. IONY hopes that progressive members in the legislature can successfully push a tax on the wealthy once again, echoing the very same calls that President Biden made during his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. 

One possibly receptive audience? Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who told NY1 this week that he's not opposed to raising taxes on the wealthy—the legislature just needs to figure out exactly what they want to fund. (Maybe to avoid any tax windfall without specific spending requirements being instead redirected to a football stadium.) 

And in fact, some progressives believe that last year's efforts for a billionaire income tax failed, in part, because specific spending demands weren't attached to them. 

"I think it's worth trying to attach specific demands, to see if that plays out differently," said Assemblymember Shrestha. "It is effective to work backwards, to say, 'Here are the things that we want,' and then, 'Here’s how we're going to fund it.' The spending needs we're attaching are very immediate. People need housing right now. People need child care right now."

Some links to start your "everyone thinks it's cool to tax the rich" Thursday: 

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