Legislators Join Labor-Religion Coalition to Demand Moral Budget

Legislative Gazette photo by Dylan Murphy

New York state legislators and members of the Labor Religion Coalition held a rally in the Capitol building’s War Room on March 4 to push for investments prioritizing low-income New Yorkers as the Legislature begins to turn their attention to finalizing the budget.

Speakers at the event included Assembly members, senators, clergy members and advocates protesting the rising rates of poverty amongst New Yorkers while demanding a “moral” budget that will hold New York’s wealthiest accountable and provide relief to poor and working-class constituents.

“New York has the most income inequality in the country and the highest concentration of extreme wealth. Just 0.4% of the state’s population have amassed a combined $6.7 trillion in wealth. Nearly half of that is untaxed investment income,” said Assemblymember Ron Kim, D–Queens, at the press conference.

According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, the top 1% in New York earn more than 40 times those of the bottom 99%. Eight million New Yorkers live in poverty, yet more than 100 billionaires reside in the state.

The Labor Religion Coalition warned that Gov. Hochul’s prospective budget will only exacerbate the state’s inequality, with the budget cutting funds for programs in education, climate infrastructure and Medicaid.

“It is morally indefensible that in a state with such abundance, so many of our fellow New Yorkers struggle to make ends meet,” said Executive Director of the Labor Religion Coalition Reverend West McNeill.

Assemblymember Tony Simone, D–Manhattan, offered a personal account of how his district has suffered from widespread poverty and the inequality gap. 

“Billionaire’s Row sits on one side of the district, with some of the most expensive real estate per square foot in the country, and yet everyday New Yorkers in the same district just a few blocks away are struggling to make ends meet…we must take action to pass a budget this year that prioritizes the working class over the ultra-wealthy in our state.”

The advocates also brought attention to New York’s tax policy as well, claiming it needs to be more progressive and ensure that the rich are paying their fair share. 

While a number of millionaires fled New York during the pandemic, a report from The New York Times last year found that they have come back, as lower and working-class families become the demographic leaving the state in droves.

“By championing fair taxation and prioritizing communal well-being over corporate interests, we can pave the way for a brighter tomorrow. Let us heed the call to compassion and solidarity, ensuring that every individual has the opportunity to thrive and flourish in the great state of New York,” said Pastor Brian Ellis-Gibbs of Queens Baptist Church.

“Recent reports show the majority of New Yorkers are in favor of increased taxes on high-income earners and large corporations to improve funding for public programs. It’s time to fully fund education, invest in climate justice, and ensure affordable housing for all,” added Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, D–Manhattan.

A poll commissioned by Invest in Our New York Campaign and conducted by the Siena College Research Institute found that 74% of New Yorkers believe taxes should go up for the top 5% of earners, and about the same percentage said that taxing the rich should be the solution to a state budget shortfall rather than cutting services.

Invest in Our New York Campaign was one of the many groups present at the press conference, and in 2021, they worked with the legislature to increase taxes on millionaires, subsequently creating $10 billion in new, recurring revenue.

After the event, advocates delivered a petition with more than 1,000 signatures reiterating their demands to Gov. Hochul.