Better that Bloomberg raise taxes than cut services, say councilmembers and advocates for the poor

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Vivertio, Rodriguez, Williams and Kink. (Azi Paybarah )
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Ahead of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's presentation of his second-to-last budget later this afternoon at City Hall, three City Council members and a handful of nonprofit groups serving the poor held a small press conference.

"The mayor said he needed a third term, which most New Yorkers weren't comfortable with, because of the creativity that he brings to the budget process," said Councilman Jumaane Williams. "I hope this new budget will mirror that."

He added, "If there are any firings that are being done, there needs to be discussions about revenue-raising options, or the mayor is not the creative mayor he said he was and he is not doing his job."

Williams, a freshman Democrat from Brooklyn, also said that "no new taxes" is another way of saying service cuts.

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"Let's not get blinded by the verbiage," he said.

Williams was joined by council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Melissa Mark Viverito, both Manhattan Democrats. Behind them stood a handful of older black and Latino men and women. Some held printed signs with the Working Families Party logo on it, which read "Restore the budget cuts" and "We are the 99%."

I asked the speakers at the event what authority the city has to raise taxes. (Except for the real-estate tax, the city usually requires state approval to raise revenue.)

Rodriguez said new revenues are needed to stave off cuts, but not necessarily new taxes. "We're calling on the mayor to be creative," he said.

Michael Kink, the executive director for a labor-backed organization that advocates more government spending on social programs for the poor, outlined a few alternatives to taxes the mayor could use to raise "over $500 million."

One option, Kink said, is collecting money from Morgan Stanley and other corporations who were given tax breaks in exchange for keeping their companies here and creating jobs, which, he said, haven't materialized yet. Another option is closing tax loopholes that even Bloomberg and other billionaires have denounced. (Where the city wasn't capable of acting on its own, Kink and others urged the mayor to advocate for action at the state and federal levels.)

"Mayor Bloomberg himself has said that carried interest loopholes aren't fair," said Kink. "Rupert Murdoch has said that the carried interest loophole isn't fair. I think when billionaires are tell you the tax laws favor the rich, you probably can make a change."