Eighty people including George Soros, Steven Rockefeller and Abigail Disney wrote to lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying they and other top earners should pay more to support schools, roads, bridges and programs to help poor and homeless residents of the state.
"Now is the time to invest in the long-term economic viability of New York," the letter reads. "We need to invest in pathways out of poverty and up the economic ladder for all of our fellow citizens, including strong public education from pre-K to college. And, we need to invest in the fragile bridges, tunnels, waterlines, public buildings, and roads that we all depend on."
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, endorses a plan that would create new, higher income tax brackets for top earners to raise a projected $2 billion.
New York already has some of the highest tax rates in the country. Raising taxes even higher on the wealthiest earners could force more to leave the state, or prevent others from moving here, according to Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.
Wylde noted that many of the people signing the letter made much or most of their money from inheritances or interest on investments - not from taxable income from a job.
"It's people like you or me that are paying a large hunk of their earned income in taxes," she said. "Most of us are paying well north of 40 percent in New York City."
Their proposal faces significant political obstacles in the state Legislature. While the Democratic majority in the Assembly has its own plan to increase taxes on millionaires, the Republican-led Senate opposes the idea. Lawmakers are now negotiating the details of the state budget and hope to have a deal in place by April 1.
Many of those signing the letter are millionaires and all make more than $650,000, making them members of the state's top 1 percent when it comes to income.
The proposal is being pushed by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning economic think tank.
A similar letter last year was largely ignored by lawmakers.
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