NY families demand millionaire tax extension

NEW YORK – More than 200 mothers, fathers and their children from city schools marched to Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office Nov. 8 to tell the governor that his position on the millionaires’ tax, which will expire this year without legislative action, is unacceptable.

The Democratic leader of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and a majority of New Yorkers, favor the tax.

Cuomo, who ran on a no-tax pledge, along with the GOP, opposes its extension.

Utilizing a speaking method adopted from Occupy Wall Street, in which speakers’ words are repeated to the audience, parents and students expressed their frustration with the governor’s stance.

Anna Lena, a fifth grader, said, “We are protesting cuts to the schools and we are saying that the millionaires tax should stay. The millionaires already have so much money that they would even have more money and more people would have even less and less money.”

She continued, “There are already so many poor people. If anyone shouldn’t have a tax, it’s poor people.”

The governor has cut almost $2 billion from the school budget this year, resulting in overcrowded classrooms and shortages of teacher assistants. Recently, more than 640 school support staff were laid off.

President Santos Crespo of AFSCME District Council 37 Local 372, which represents the support staff, came with union members to support the parents and teachers.

At a recent City Hall press conference, Santos declared, “We made proposals that would have closed the budget deficit, but the Department of Education refused to negotiate in good faith.”

City Council member Brad Lander, of Brooklyn, explained his position on the millionaires’ tax: “Class sizes are getting bigger and teachers are getting cut. The demonstrators understand it doesn’t make any sense to give a $5 billion cut to millionaires and billionaires while defunding schools.”

According to figures from the New York Alliance for Quality Education, estimated revenue lost next fiscal year if the millionaires tax sunsets would be $2.8 billion; the budget gap for next fiscal year in New York State is. $2.4 billion.

Since 2007, New York City schools have had their budgets cut by almost 14 percent. These cuts simply translate to 7,000 classrooms with more children than the contractual limit (which is already high – 32 students in grades one through six). Now there are than 1,000 more overcrowded classrooms than last year.

Retired professor Mary Lee Berringer said, “When I was six years old my mother took me to marches at Union Square on the Spanish Civil War. Now my grandchildren are here for a good cause.”

Lori, an educator with a daughter in third grade, said, “I’m protesting Governor Cuomo’s refusal to extend the millionaires tax, which effects point two percent of New York City residents and will grossly affect all NYC public school students.”

Commenting on the argument that the rich will leave the city if the tax is extended, one speaker said, “Well Governor Cuomo, how do you explain that since the tax has been instituted, more millionaires have come to this city? We the people of New York City are the ones who will leave this city if you keep cutting. So stay with us governor, not with the 1 percent. Do you hear us governor? Do you hear us governor?”


Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.