Heastie keeps talking taxes, as Cuomo tries to change the subject
ALBANY — Assembly speaker Carl Heastie hit the airwaves to argue again for his plan to tax the rich, promising that the Democrats he leads are working on a budget proposal that would use that new tax money to, among other things, increase aid to the state's municipalities.
Heastie last week embraced a plan to create two new tax brackets and renew a surcharge on people reporting more than $1 million that was first enacted in 2009. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state's top Democrat, is hoping to avoid the conversation about taxes that Heastie is trying to inject into the debate about this year's state budget.
“Congratulations to them for doing well, but as a civic duty … having the wealth in this state more evenly distributed would be a better way for us to go, particularly as we're trying to tackle poverty,” Heastie said on “The Capitol Pressroom” with Susan Arbetter. “There are many needs that we have for infrastructure around the state … this can help keep property taxes down for all New Yorkers by asking the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay a little more.”
Heastie's push has fired up parts of the institutional left in New York that have been wary of Cuomo for years and who the governor was hoping to mollify by advocating for a $15 minimum wage (Heastie and Democrats in the Assembly embraced that position before Cuomo did).
The governor is actively trying to change the subject.
On Monday, Cuomo declared there was “no reason or appetite” to talk about taxes this year. On Tuesday, a gubernatorial spokesman responded to a tweet storm and some comments by the speaker by attacking the Assembly's inaction on ethics proposals.
On Wednesday morning, Cuomo's office rolled out reports detailing the impact of a minimum wage hike on each of the state's 10 labor markets. Overall, the Cuomo administration says a minimum wage hike will inject $15.7 billion into the economy, most of which it hopes will be spent by low-wage consumers.
“If you work full time, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty — which is why it’s time for New York to lead the way and pass a $15 minimum wage,” Cuomo said in a statement appended to each regional report. “This report demonstrates that raising the minimum wage will provide new opportunity and restore economic justice to millions of New Yorkers. Our proposal will lift families out of poverty and create a stronger economy for all, and I urge lawmakers to help us fight for fair pay for working families this year.”
Heastie, in his radio interview, said he supported a call by the state's mayors and local leaders to increase funding through the AIM program, which gives money to municipalities. They have long pushed for an increase, but say low inflation has lowered the two-percent cap on property tax levy hikes to almost zero.
“We've always favored that, the governor's been against aid to municipalities. We feel the local governments have a better idea on how they should spend money for their needs,” Heastie said. “With the school tax cap and the property tax cap is constrained, I think it's even more paramount that the state step in and help these areas.”
Heastie said the Assembly Democrats would offer more specific plans later this month, when they introduce a one-house budget resolution.
“We're just putting all the ingredients together. We haven't baked our cake yet,” he said.