Clergy & Faith Leaders Call for an Expansion of Millionaire’s Tax, Investment in New Yorkers
Albany - A group of clergy and faith leaders delivered a letter signed by over one hundred of their clergy colleagues around the state, urging for an expansion of the millionaire’s tax and an investment of those funds into programs for the neediest New Yorkers.
"Right now the wealthiest New Yorkers pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than the poorest. That's simply unjust. Millionaires don't need a tax cut. We need them to pay their fair share so that our state can invest in public schools, public infrastructure, healthcare for all, and programs to fight inequality and end poverty,” said Rev. Emily McNeill, Acting Director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State.
Commenting on the challenges faced by food pantry visitors, Angela Warner, the Food Pantry Director at St Vincent de Paul Parish in Albany, said, "The guests at our food pantry don’t get stressed out worrying about the tax rates on their millions - because they don’t have millions. They’re struggling to put food on the table, make sure their kids are ready for school, that they have adequate housing, and can go to a doctor when they’re sick. Letting this tax expire is saying that our guests don’t matter, but the account balances of rich stock brokers do. At St Vincent’s we do our best to care for our neighbors, and one of the ways we do that is by insisting the rich pay their fair share."
At the same time that elected leaders consider allowing this tax to expire, there are proposals to end the Foundation Aid formula set in place by state courts to increase and equitably distribute funds to public schools based on need. "It is mind boggling that our elected leaders would have the audacity to not expand the Millionaire's Tax, and even worse, consider letting the Millionaire's Tax expire," said Jamaica Miles, Capital District Organizer at Citizen Action, "Not while our schools continue to struggle with inadequate funding, and resources for supportive housing continue to be delayed. These officials need to do the right thing: expand this tax on the wealthiest people in our state.”
Rev. Dustin Wright, pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church and president of the New York State Council of Churches, said: “All of our faith traditions have central tenets of concern and care for the poor and marginalized in society. One way we address that is through charity, but another is by structuring our society so that all of us contribute fairly to programs and services that provide social uplift. Our current tax structure doesn’t do that, and letting this tax expire would make things much worse. We think the wealthy must contribute more through an expanded Millionaire’s Tax, and hope that they’d be glad to do it.”
Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute added, “When you’re in a hole and want to get out, stop digging. As details continue to emerge regarding the enormous fiscal and human impact of federal funding cuts on New York State, we shouldn’t end clearly important revenue streams like the Millionaire’s Tax that could be used to 'fill in the holes.' New York’s worst-in-the-nation inequality means we should be investing more in our schools, in housing, and in fighting poverty. We can’t do those things if the wealthy aren’t paying their fair share, and that’s why we’re calling for an expansion of this tax.
Highlighting the ongoing crises of poverty, particularly in upstate cities, Robb Smith, a lay community minister and Executive Director of Interfaith Impact of New York State said: “What is a moral basis for taxation? How much is enough? Already, up to 40% of the children in our cities suffer from hunger, our schools are underfunded, our roads and bridges are crumbling, and we have the greatest gap between rich and poor of any state in the nation. As the federal government implements its radical new austerity budget, our problems will only grow worse. Meanwhile, the failure of the wealthy to give back a fair share of earnings hurts us all. Interfaith Impact supports not only extending the millionaires’ tax when it expires but also increasing the number of brackets and making the new structure permanent. Progressive, fair taxation is the path to a just community for all New Yorkers.”
Rashida Tyler, Hunger Action Network of New York State, said, "Jonathan Swift said that ‘a wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.’ Our lawmakers should be wise and place the well-being of New Yorkers at the heart of their budget. Passing the Millionaire’s Tax would be a great step in that direction. The revenue it generates will benefit the state as a whole, as well as the neediest."