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When so many of us are being asked to sacrifice, the wealthy should indeed also help in the solution of our state’s budget problems.

The tough budget: will the rich be spared?

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One month before the state budget is due, support to continue a so-called millionaire's tax in New York seems to be waning, with the Assembly Speaker saying the likelihood of retaining the temporary income surcharge on the state's wealthiest is "poor." Karen Dewitt reports from Albany.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

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Governor Cuomo and the Republican Leader of the State Senate have repeatedly said they do not favor extending a temporary income tax surcharge on New York’s earning more than $250,000 a year, the so called millionaires tax, as a means of alleviating some of the $10 billion dollars in budget cuts that the governor is proposing.

In the Assembly, where Democrats are in the majority, some members had expressed interest in  continuing the tax, which is set to expire at the end of the year. But now, with just one month to go before the budget deadline, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says, while there is support in his Democratic conference for the tax on the rich, he does not think he can overcome opposition from the Governor and the Senate.

“I think the likelihood of it actually being put into law, I recognize, is pretty poor,” said Silver.

The Speaker spent two hours in a closed door meeting with Governor Cuomo. When asked about the topics discussed, he answered in generalities, saying they talked about a “host of substantive issues”. But the Speaker did say he has some concerns about the governor’s spending plan and it’s impact on mental health and human needs.

When asked if there were any other possible taxes or fees being discussed, besides the millionaire’s tax, the speaker answered, “not really.”

The speaker did point out that assessments on hospitals and other heath care providers recommended by the governor’s Medicaid redesign panel could be viewed as a tax.

Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, a supporter of extending the income tax surcharge on the wealthy, agrees that realistically it may not happen, and he says it’s becoming increasingly likely that Governor Cuomo’s budget may be adopted by the legislature largely intact.

“The governor’s budget, I believe at this point in time, will be pretty much approved as is,” said Canestrari.

A coalition of groups affiliated with the teachers union and other advocates for school funding say despite the Speaker’s seeming attempt to throw cold water on the tax extension, they aren’t giving up. Ron Deutsch, with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, says a rally is planned at the Capitol Tuesday in favor of taxing the rich. He says public opinion polls favor it.

“The public is very much behind continuing these surcharges,” said Deutsch. “When so many of us are being asked to sacrifice, the wealthy should indeed also help in the solution of our state’s budget problems.”

And some Assemblymembers say they don’t intend to throw in the towel yet either. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, of Ithaca says she heard from her constituents in her home district during five town meetings she held during the President’s week break, and the “feedback was pretty clear”.

“We ought to be taxing the multi millionaires and billionaires of our state instead of cutting our kid’s  schools and the hospitals and nursing homes,” said Lifton.

Governor Cuomo did not comment after the private meeting with the Assembly Speaker. But he did release a proposal to cap the pay of school superintendents as an additional avenue to saving money.  The school superintendent’s lobby group in Albany says a cap could undermine the capacity of schools to attract quality leaders.

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