De Blasio’s Push for Tax on Wealthy Helps Put Pressure on Cuomo

“For a lot of people, they don’t realize an election is going on,” said Christina M. Greer, a professor of political science at Fordham University. “This is him circling back to the campaign promise that motivated so many people the first time.”


Mr. de Blasio arriving at Borough Hall, where he announced his plan to tax the wealthy to help pay for fixes to the subway system.

Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

The announcement also served another political purpose by thrusting the issue of paying for the subways back onto Mr. Cuomo. Should Mr. de Blasio win re-election and claim a mandate to raise taxes, the governor, who is also facing falling approval ratings amid the subway troubles and a potential challenge from the left in the Democratic primary, could find the mayor’s proposal haunting his own re-election campaign next year.

“We’re here today united to say to the governor, join us in asking the wealthiest 1 percent to pay their fair share,” said Bill Lipton, the New York State director of the Working Families Party, standing alongside the mayor. Some members of the party, which is to the left of most New York Democrats, have considered a third-party challenge to Mr. Cuomo in 2018.

Almost as soon as the governor’s team learned of the mayor’s tax plan — City Hall shared it with them shortly before going public on Sunday, according to a person familiar with the discussions — there came word that Mr. Cuomo would be open to a so-called congestion pricing plan for New York City traffic. A spokeswoman for the governor declined to go into greater detail about how such a plan would work. A similar plan to impose a fee on vehicles in certain parts of Manhattan proposed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg a decade ago came apart in Albany.

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“Like it or not, it’s political gamesmanship, and the mayor has to play that game,” said Paul Steely White, the executive director of a pedestrian and bicycling advocacy group, Transportation Alternatives, who attended Mr. de Blasio’s event on Monday. “The mayor has maybe learned something from the last few go-arounds.”

The tax plan would apply an increase of about a half a percentage point, to 4.4 percent from about 3.9 percent, to individuals who make $500,000 and higher or families making more than $1 million, a group that City Hall has estimated would include about 32,000 New Yorkers. The city said it would generate $700 million in revenue to start, enough to fund half-price fares for about 800,000 low-income New Yorkers.

The details were drawn from a tax proposal that Mr. de Blasio had hoped would fund his universal prekindergarten program, he said Monday. He campaigned on the tax increase in 2013 and made it a key part of his inaugural address, but support for the measure in Albany withered once the governor and the Legislature agreed to provide the necessary funds.


After Mr. de Blasio’s speech, Eric Phillips, the secretary-treasurer for Transport Workers Union Local 100, voiced objections to the plan.

Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Since then, Mr. de Blasio has twice proposed a tax on the sale of expensive homes — a so-called “mansion tax” — but the proposals have also gained little traction in Albany.

The mayor said the current effort, which he has called a “millionaire’s tax,” was different because it would directly address a pressing need to fund the subways.

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“We’re taking a model that had a lot of support in 2013 and applying it to a crisis moment, which I think adds urgency and intensity to the fact that there has to be a response from Albany,” he said.

The response there on Monday was lukewarm to negative.

Michael Whyland, the spokesman for state Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, a Democrat, said the mayor’s proposal “is one option among several that I am sure we’ll be discussing,” adding that congestion pricing would also be in the mix. The leader of the state Senate, John J. Flanagan, a Republican, rejected the proposal in a statement: “Raising taxes is not the answer.”

The Partnership for New York City, the city’s leading business association, and the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission also opposed the plan. And Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Mr. de Blasio’s Republican opponent in the 2013 election, told reporters at a news conference on Monday that the tax proposal did not address the subway’s immediate needs.

“I can’t wait a year,” said Mr. Lhota, who was reappointed to lead the agency for a second time by Mr. Cuomo. He urged Mr. de Blasio to contribute to an emergency repair plan in an even split with the state, a message carried on signs held by transit union members at the mayor’s event.

The governor, whose schedule listed him as being in New York City on Monday, did not hold any public events.

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