Bloomberg on why New York needs very rich people, whatever the ‘income disparity’

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Bloomberg. (Spencer T. Tucker via nyc.gov)
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"Roughly one percent pays 50 percent of the taxes in the city," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning, while arguing against higher taxes on weathly New Yorkers.

"Half of one percent pays about 40 [percent]," he continued, referring to the overall share of revenue generated by the city's personal income tax. "One percent pays about 25. Five hundred filers paid a total of 15 percent of our taxes."

All of the likely candidates to succeed Bloomberg (with the exception of longshot Tom Allon) have, at some point in recent years, advocated for higher taxes on the well-to-do.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former comptroller Bill Thompson have since backed away from such proposals.

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Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, however, recently called for a tax surcharge on high-income New Yorkers that would underwrite universal pre-K.

Bloomberg initially called that, and other tax-the-rich proposals, "dumb."

That was before yesterday, when Bloomberg told reporters gathered a press conference that he didn't want to talk about his would-be successors anymore. Nevertheless, it's still clearly on his mind.

Today, during his regular Friday morning appearance on the John Gambling radio show, Bloomberg arrived at the topic of higher taxes on his own, by way of a rambling monologue about stop-and-frisk, the relationship between the income gap and educational opportunities, and then, the people who underwrite those opportunities.

"You don't have a tax base unless we can attract people who are very mobile and have a lot of money," said Bloomberg.

"Whether you think it's right or not, the wealthy are mobile," he continued. "And we want the richest people to come here and patronize our stores, and live here and bring their businesses here and pay their taxes here. And that does create a greater income disparity, but that's also where the tax base comes from to fix the school systems, which will eventually help those people who are struggling get up the ladder."

Following a commercial break, Gambling asked Bloomberg about de Blasio's universal pre-K proposal, which the public advocate said would serve up to 50,000 young New Yorkers who aren't already enrolled in early education programs.

At first, the mayor declined to answer, citing his remarks from yesterday.

But then he answered anyway.

Universal pre-K would be "phenomenally expensive," he said, adding, "You pick the kids who are most at risk."

According to a City Hall spokesman, the tax numbers cited by Bloomberg were generated by the city Office of Management and Budget.

A report from the Independent Budget Office found that in 2009, approximately 43 percent of the income-tax liability in the city was borne by earners in the top percentile.