Silver Says Chances Of Keeping Higher Income Taxes For Wealthy “Pretty Poor”

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, reiterated this afternoon what he told the New York Post yesterday: keeping higher income-tax levels for the wealthy is unlikely.

Silver emerged from more than a one-hour meeting behind closed doors with Gov. Andrew Cuomo at Cuomo’s offices to discuss the budget, but said while there may be compromise on some issues, he didn’t see keeping the tax as a likely one.

“Is it dead?” Silver responded to a reporter’s question. “I think there are members of my conference who think it’s very much alive. I think the Assembly conference would support it. The governor has indicted he opposes it. The Senate has indicated he opposes it. Unless we can figure out a way that our conference can override those two objections, the likelihood of it actually being put into law, I recognize are pretty poor.”

Cuomo and Senate Republicans are both against continuing the higher-income tax bracket on those who make more than $200,000 a year, which expires at year’s end. The tax, instituted in 2009, brings in between $4 billion to $5 billion a year in revenue for the state, and unions and education groups are urging the Legislature and the governor to keep the tax in lieu of cuts to education and health care.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, said she had five town-hall meetings last week in her district, and constituents implored her to continue the tax.

“The feedback from my town meetings were pretty clear, that we ought to be taxing the multi-millionaires and billionaires our state instead of cutting our kids’ schools and our hospitals and nursing homes,” said Lifton, who has been an advocate of keeping the tax.

But Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, D-Cohoes, said the Assembly can’t pass the measure alone, saying he supports it too.

“I think it would help,” he said of the tax. “There’s still going to be draconian cuts across the board that will be severe, but at least we can ameliorate some of the cuts and do something to be helpful. I think it also sends a signal that others just at the lower end of the spectrum economically aren’t bearing the full brunt of the cuts.”

Here’s Silver’s comments to reporters this afternoon.

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