Poll: Most in NY favor millionaires' tax

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ALBANY - Nearly three quarters of New Yorkers favor higher taxes on millionaires, according to a poll released Monday.

A Siena College poll found support for a so-called millionaires' tax reaches across the political spectrum with 72 percent in favor, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents. Twenty-six percent of the 800 registered voters polled opposed it.

Meanwhile, seizing on the growing Occupy Wall Street protests, unions and advocacy groups joined under the banner of "99 New York" Monday to call on the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to extend a tax surcharge on high earners that is due to expire Dec. 31.

"It's clear that the people want to see this tax continued," said Ron Deutsch, executive director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness. "People are clearly indicating that they're fed up, they're fed up with corporate greed, they're fed up with income inequality, they want change."

Deutsch said money raised by the tax would help struggling working-class families who have been affected by spending cuts in recent years.

The tax surcharge -- which hits not just millionaires but individuals making $200,000 or more and households earning more than $250,000 -- is unlikely to be extended. Cuomo and the Republican Senate majority oppose it.

Enacted in 2009, the higher tax rate for those earners, and a reduction of itemized deductions, brought in $4.87 billion last year and is expected to bring in a total of $14.4 billion during the three years in which it will have been in effect, according to state budget documents.

The existing high-earners surcharge hits a relatively small number of people in the state. The majority of New York households, 63.4 percent, made less than $75,000 in 2010, while 5.9 percent earned $200,000 or more, according to U.S. Census data.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said the poll showed support for extending the surcharge. "The results of today's Siena College poll is further evidence that New Yorkers do not think millionaires and multimillionaires should be getting a tax cut while working people are sacrificing and vital services are being cut," Silver said in a statement.

Cuomo said that he supports a federal millionaires' tax, but that a similar tax at the state level would put New York at a competitive disadvantage. "Long-term, the competitiveness of this state is hurt when you are one of the highest-taxed states in the nation and businesses and people are more mobile than ever before," Cuomo said Monday at a news conference in Albany.

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