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Around 75 protesters from the Occupy movement chanted and demonstrated inside the State Capitol on Thursday, demanding that Governor Cuomo agree to extend an income tax surcharge on millionaires.
The protesters, chanting “We are the 99%, he is governor 1%”, complained of everything from government spending on wars to a slumped housing market. They took turns speaking in Governor Cuomo’s reception room, while around a dozen state troopers looked on.
Sharmin Hossain, a student at SUNY Albany, says she’s concerned about excessive student debt, and angry at the banks.
“Let’s take our money out of the banks and put it into credit unions,” Hossain said, to cheers.
Elise Van Allen is a real estate agent in downtown Albany. She says the home mortgage crisis has hurt her business and the home buying industry. She backs the renewal of the millionaire’s tax in New York.
“Governor Cuomo represents the wealthiest and the corporations,” Van Allen said. “Politicians are too far removed from the day to day lives of the people they are elected to represent.”
Governor Cuomo was not at the Capitol, he was in New York City for the day. Speaking to public radio Wednesday, the governor said he understands the protesters’ concerns, but has no plans to change his stance against renewing the income tax surcharge on the state’s wealthiest when it expires on December 31st. He says renewing the tax on the rich will hurt New York’s economic competiveness.
“I don’t think anyone can argue, but that increasing taxes on individuals and businesses is not good for the economic health of the state,” the governor said.
The governor says he supports a federal tax on millionaires, as outlined in a plan by President Obama.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he agrees with the message of the Occupy movement, though has reservations about encampments that may infringe on the rights of others. Silver says extending the millionaire’s tax would bring billions of dollars into the state’s coffers, and wipe out the current budget deficit and need to further cut services.
“We are talking about a tax cut for people who are making more than one million dollars,” said Silver. “Now is not the time to do that.”
Speaker Silver says he does not endorse the demonstrators calling Cuomo “Governor 1%”, saying there’s no need for name calling.
“The governor has a long track record of being concerned with the poor, the unemployed in this state,” Silver said.
The demonstrators were largely peaceful and did not attempt to block entrances or get arrested. They left after about half an hour, saying the protest was only the beginning.
“We’ll be back,” they chanted.