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Phil Boyle backs bill to raise New York State income tax on high earners

Phil Boyle, Republican incumbent candidate for New York

Phil Boyle, Republican incumbent candidate for New York State Senate District 4, poses for a portrait near the end of the party's Suffolk County nominating convention at the Portuguese American Center in Farmingville on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. -- slVOTE -- Credit: James Escher

Republican State Sen. Phil Boyle is co-sponsoring a bill to raise the state’s income tax on high earners. 

It appears to be a one-off deviation in the natural order of things, as attempts by The Point to confirm the sun now rises in the west bore no fruit.

And in truth, Bay Shore’s Boyle does not plan to support this new millionaire tax beyond the current fiscal crisis.

Boyle is the only Republican state legislator on Long Island and, he believes, the only one in the state to co-sponsor a bill from Syracuse Democratic Sen. Rachel May that would increase the state income tax on everyone earning more than $5 million annually, in three tranches. The bill proposes the current high-earner rate of 8.82% be hiked to 9.32% on annual earnings between $5 million and $10 million; 9.82% on annual earnings between $10 million and $100 million; and 10.32% on annual earnings of more than $100 million.

So why the sudden change of heart from a politician whose anti-tax increase stance has been reliably in line with GOP orthodoxy pretty much throughout his career?

“As far as I know, I don’t have a single constituent living in my district who is earning $5 million or more a year,” Boyle told The Point Thursday, “but I have thousands of constituents who will suffer if the state budget is cut or property taxes have to increase to keep up funding for schools and local government.”

And Boyle wants to make it clear his basic philosophy has not changed.

“Under normal circumstances, I would never, with a capital N, support higher taxes,” he said. “But these are extremely difficult times and if the governor is talking about 20% cuts of state aid to schools to make up a potentially $13 billion deficit, then during this crisis I would support higher taxes on very high earners before I’d support those cuts.”

Boyle is a signatory on a letter from the Fiscal Policy Institute that includes 99 state legislators and 16 unions supporting such increases being implemented before spending cuts are considered. But he wants to be clear that the ultra-high earner income tax increase is the only new tax he is supporting: he does not favor the pied-a-terre taxes or stock-transaction taxes also being bandied about. And he supports a quick sunset of the increase he is backing, which he hopes will induce high earners not to flee the state, as anti-increase folks like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo say they fear. 

The bill, as written, does not sunset the increase, but this legislation is likely just a starting point in the discussion in Albany.

“I feel like the very wealthy in New York would suck it up for a year or two and do their part if they know it’s temporary,” Boyle said. “And we’ll see what happens in Washington, because if the federal government does bail the states out, maybe we won’t need these increases at all.”

That would likely suit Boyle, who faces Democratic former assemblywoman and 2016 Bernie Sanders delegate Christine Pellegrino in November.

Other Long Island legislators who’ve signed on the letter include Assembly members Taylor Darling, Michaelle Solages, Steve Englebright, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Charles Lavine, and Fred Thiele, along with Sens. John Brooks, James Gaughran, Todd Kaminsky and Kevin Thomas.

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