Wealthy New Yorkers should brace for tax hikes as the city grapples with one of the worst fiscal crises in nearly five decades as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Tuesday.
"We have a $4.2 billion deficit in our city budget for the next year," Stringer, who recently launched a bid to become New York City mayor, said during an interview on Bloomberg News. "It's tough but manageable. So we have to use all the leverage at our disposal to close that budget gap."
That includes imposing a levy on the richest individuals living in New York, Stringer said.
"Wealthy people, if needed, should pay a little more to get us through this crisis," he said. "We have asked our frontline workers to make the ultimate sacrifice. Seems responsible that people who have great wealth should want to help the city in which they made money in."
A growing number of New York Democrats are pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a three-term Democrat who has a long history of opposing measures that raise taxes on the wealthy, to make the rich pay more. According to budget officials, the state faces a $14.5 billion budget gap.
Cuomo has previously argued that taxes that target high earners could drive them out of the state, but appeared to open the door last week to increasing taxes. If the federal government does not provide New York with additional emergency funding, Cuomo said the city may have no choice but to increase levies on the Big Apple's wealthiest residents.
"This will be a hole in the financial plan so large that it will be impossible to fill," Cuomo said Thursday. "What would we do to try to fill it? Taxes, cuts, borrowing, early retirements [of government workers]. All of the above."
Stringer maintained that even with a wealth tax, rich New Yorkers would not permanently leave the state.
"We've had a fiscal crisis as far back as the 1970s. People fled, I remember they left, they came back," he said. "After 9/11, people fled, but they came back. After the 2008 recession, people left, they came back. There will be some that will leave. But everyone, at the end of the day, wants to be in the center of the universe, no disrespect to London. They want to live in New York City."
"Why would you risk your life going to Texas, or Florida, or any place where you have governors who just ignore health safety laws?" he continued. "You have to be nuts to go there. Stay where you are, New York is the safest place in the world right now."
There are 118 billionaires living in New York who are worth an estimated $566.4 billion. According to a 2018 analysis published by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, New York imposes an 11.3% levy on the top 1% of earners -- the second-highest in the country.
Stringer said the city could also save about $400 million by refinancing debt and as much as $1 billion through efficiencies.