Republican Sen. John Bonacic indicated today that he believes the Senate GOP will ultimately support Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his bid to revamp the state’s code and potentially retain higher taxes on the wealthy.
“The conference wants to be at the hip with the governor,” Bonacic, of Mount Hope, Orange County, said in a telephone interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “To me, that’s important to the conference. They want to show the governor that they like what he’s doing, and they are going to be at his hip. The little nuances or differences in conference are not going to make a difference.”
He added that the conference would negotiate with the governor on any tax code changes, but “For the most part, the governor’s values on fiscal issues have been our values. We will be with the governor, I’m sure.”
Bonacic has long been pushing for the state to retain the higher income-tax brackets on millionaires.
He introduced legislation earlier this year that would keep higher taxes on millionaires and use the money, estimated between $2.8 billion and $3.1 billion a year, to fund a circuit breaker — which would tie property taxes to household income. Some of the money would also go to restore aid to schools to fund teachers and classroom education, he said.
Bonacic said he hopes the Democratic governor would consider using some of the revenue from a millionaires’ tax to provide property-tax relief to the middle class, but added, “I give the governor high marks on what he has done so far and I want to be his ally. I’m just out there advocating for property-tax relief. I still think he should look at it.”
Cuomo is believed to be considering retaining higher income taxes on the millionaires but at a lower rate than what expires at year’s end. He is also considering a middle-class tax cut, and using some of the money for economic-development and infrastructure projects.
Bonacic said Cuomo is right to potentially pivot off his stance of letting higher income taxes on the rich expire — which would be a tax break for them come Jan. 1. He said the poor economy, the struggling middle class, severe storm damage to parts of the state all demand a rethinking by Cuomo.
“We have great needs now more than ever, because of flood damage, because of the extended recession,” continued Bonacic, whose district was hard hit by Tropical Storm Irene. “So the needs are legitimate and if the governor says infrastructure is more important than tax relief, I don’t want to split hairs. They are both equally important.”
Bonacic, who has long had an independent streak among the GOP conference, split from his conference in March when he introduced the millionaires’ tax bill. He was hailed by unions and education groups, but rebuked by his fellow Republican senators, who along with Cuomo vowed to let the tax expire.
And while the Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a bill in late June to keep higher taxes on millionaires, the measure went nowhere in the Republican-led Senate. The current income-tax surcharge starts at individuals making more than $200,000 a year and expires Dec. 31, bringing in about $4 billion a year in revenue to the state.