Bloomberg on the importance of rich taxpayers, taxi-medallion money, and relations with Cuomo

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Andrew Cuomo and Michael Bloomberg. (Azi Paybarah via Flickr)
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Borough President Scott Stringer’s proposal yesterday to raise taxes on the wealthy does not seem to have found favor with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said during his regular radio appearance this morning, “We want to attract wealthy people from around the world to come and live here, because that’s our tax base.”

“One percent of the people who live in New York City pay 50 percent of the city income tax,” said the mayor. “No matter how much some elected official wants—‘Let’s go tax them all, it’s not fair’—they can move. Those are the people who can move.”

The mayor, who is a billionaire, said, “Most of my friends say, 'This is a very high-tax city and state, but you get a lot for it and I’m going to stay here.' There is a breaking point, however.”

Wealthy people “can live across the river and drive in," the mayor said. "You can have an apartment in the city and ... half your year, spend outside of the city. If you can travel and have someplace else on weekends, then you don’t have to pay taxes here, you have to pay them elsewheres.”

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The proposed 2013 budget Bloomberg presented yesterday not only relies on revenue from rich city residents, but also depends on $1 billion in estimated revenue from a taxi-medallion auction that may not come to pass this year.

While the Assembly has approved the auction and the Senate is poised to do so as early as Monday, the city can't proceed until it has presented a plan to the governor for the gradual phase-in of full handicapped accessibility in the taxi and livery system.

A district court has separately demanded something similar.

Until the governor and the court are satisfied, there will be no auction.

The mayor, when pressed on the topic this morning, addressed only one of those obstacles.

“Look, Governor Cuomo understands that we need taxi service in the other four-and-a-half boroughs,” said Bloomberg. “Governor Cuomo understands that we need this money. And Governor Cuomo doesn’t have any interest in slowing us down. There’s some things that he said he’d like to see done. We said we’d do them. We’ll do them and he’ll approve it. This isn’t a battle.”

“I suppose by your argument, that it’s not for sure,” he continued. “Yes, it’s not for sure people are gonna pay taxes tomorrow. It’s not for sure that the economy’s going to be there tomorrow. But let’s get serious. I do not worry about this. Governor Cuomo is in this with us, as are we with him.”

While he was at it, the mayor sought to paint a rosy picture of his relationship with the governor, which has improved in recent months following some serious contention over the mayor’s outer-borough taxi proposal.

“Have we ever had an argument?” said the mayor. “I don’t remember one.”

The mayor did make it clear that he had to empty the city’s reserve fund to balance this year’s budget was in part because the federal and state governments had cut education funding.

“We lost $800, $850 million in federal stimulus money for education, and $800, $850 million, something like that, in state education funds.” said the mayor.

“I wish [the governor] had more money, but you can’t criticize him for doing that,” continued Bloomberg. “Having said that, that’s where a couple of billion of our reserve went last year and this year ... The state used to pay for 50 percent of our education budget. Now they pay for a third.”

What then, does the elimination of the reserve mean for next year’s budget, which is facing a $3 billion gap? Bloomberg sounded an optimistic note.

“The economy is slightly improving, going in the right direction," said the mayor. "And we have 17 months to keep reducing our expenses.”