As protesters rally in the Capitol, there were some passionate and interesting moments on the floor of the Senate and Assembly today when lawmakers debated the decision not to include higher income taxes on the wealthy in the budget.
The most entertaining came from Assemblyman Jose Rivera, D-Bronx. Speaking on the floor, Rivera knocked the fight between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg over state aid, using some unflattering language in Spanish.
Asked jokingly by the Assembly’s presiding officer Assemblyman Peter Rivera, also of the Bronx, for a translation, Jose Rivera said, “That’s what we have you up there for.”
Jose Rivera continued, “You don’t really want me to try … you want me to say it? Stop talking sh*t.”
“Oooh,” lawmakers in the chamber responded.
“Stop whining,” Rivera continued, his voice getting louder. “Both the governor and others are whining and seem to care more about millionaires and people making over a million dollars sharing in the pain. Well, you know, after today Governor Cuomo. I served under your father. It was your father who built all these prisons that you are proposing to close down today.”
Some Republicans, however, applauded steps to close the budget without keeping the higher income taxes on the rich, a measure set to expire at year’s end.
Assemblyman Joel Miller, R-Poughkeepsie, claimed that giving more money to schools would mean more money for teachers’ salaries.
“You’re not improving education. You’re not investing in education,” Miller said. “You’re simply investing in the lifestyle of the school teacher who will now go to Disneyworld for the third time. Let’s be real about this. And the quality of education has not improved despite the fact that we give more and more money.”
In the Senate, freshman Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Bronx, led a line of questioning at Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, over the so-called millionaire’s tax, trying to bait DeFrancisco into saying that letting the tax expire would be a tax break for the rich.
“This is not,” DeFrancisco responded, “because this is a tax that was going to expire. We’re not giving relief. We’re just letting the law expire. And we’re not imposing a new tax.”
But Sen. Daniel Squadron, D-Brooklyn, later said the budget doesn’t help the state control rising property taxes or provide rent control for New York City — a measure set to expire June 15. A property-tax cap was approved in the Senate on Jan. 31, but hasn’t been taken up in the Assembly. (Squadron voted against the tax-cap bill this year.)
“We need relief for people who are having trouble staying in their homes, whether they are renters in the downstate region or homeowners in the upstate region and we just simply don’t have that relief in this bill,” he said.
Later, Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, said that letting the higher income taxes expire is good for the economy.
“It’s not a millionaire tax,” Ball said. “It’s a job-killing tax and at the end of the day, it’s your governor, Governor Cuomo, who stands solidly on this issue because he knows that we have no future in this state continually being number one in all the wrong ways: number one in killing jobs, number one in taxing, number one in out-migration.”
And we’ll end with Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, who accused Cuomo of eying the White House instead of doing what’s right for New Yorkers. (h/t to the NYO)
“Trust Governor Cuomo? He wants to be president,” Diaz says at the 5-minute mark of the video below. “Governor Cuomo wants to be president, and he would do anything to be president. He would take away the Medicare from the people, he would take the services from the poor, he would take the money from education… He would put everybody on the unemployment line and then he would say, ‘I balanced the budget. Elect me for President. Shame on you. Thank you very much.”