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Cuomo budget relies on wealthy New Yorkers to achieve balance

ALBANY – Will the rich have to pony up more taxes than they were expecting to pay this year in order to help New York State balance its budget?

That will be among the thorny subjects for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature to negotiate in the coming months.

Cuomo proposes a continuation of the current “millionaires’ tax,’’ which was first imposed during a budget crisis in 2009 and then tweaked and extended again in 2012 during Cuomo’s second year in office.

The push back from the two legislative houses extends to polar opposites.

In the Senate, Republicans already were criticizing Cuomo’s move. Asked Tuesday if the Senate supports the Cuomo tax plan, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said: “No.’’

Why?

“I like cutting taxes,’’ the GOP leader from Suffolk County said.

In the Assembly, Democrats who control that chamber say Cuomo’s tax idea does not hit millionaires hard enough. They are likely to go further than they did last year in proposing that New York’s wealthiest dig more deeply to help the state finance its spending plans.

[Related: Cuomo's $162 billion budget focuses on middle class]

The Assembly wants to include more New Yorkers in the highest income tax rates and raise the tax rates on super-rich. Those making more than $5 million would pay a new higher tax rate and new rates would be established for those making $10 million or more.

Assembly Democrats are expected to tweak last year’s push for higher taxes on the wealthy, which they estimated would raise taxes on 56,000 people who pay state income taxes in New York. Some of those affected live out of state, commuting from Connecticut and New Jersey for jobs in Manhattan.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the millionaires’ tax will be a priority for his Democratic conference. He said spending needs demand the tax be raised and noted it comes at a time when some Republicans in Washington are talking about tax cuts for wealthy earners.

“We believe that this is the time to do this,’’ Heastie said.

The top New York income tax rate for people with taxable incomes of $1.1 million for single individuals is 8.82 percent. It applies to head of household filers with incomes of $1.6 million or more and for married couples filing jointly at $2.1 million or more.

The tax brings in nearly $4 billion in revenues over a two-year period, Cuomo said.

"We do not cut taxes for millionaires,’’ Cuomo said of his budget plan.

With the state facing a deficit and higher spending ideas promoted by Cuomo, the state doesn’t “have the resources to lose the millionaires’ revenues now and have this state function the way it should,’’ the governor said.

If the Senate doesn’t go along with keeping rates higher for wealthy taxpayers, Cuomo said a number of his spending proposals will have to disappear. One, he said, is a $1 billion increase in state aid to public schools. School aid is typically the top priority for Republicans who control the Senate.

“So that’s what they’re going to have to trade,’’ Cuomo said of lawmakers during the upcoming budget talks.

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