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New York Millionaires Offer to Pay Extra Taxes to Offset Budget Cuts

By Julie Shapiro | March 24, 2011 2:17pm

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — Millionaires across New York State are banding together to ask for more taxes.

About 100 wealthy New Yorkers, including actor Mark Ruffalo, say they want to do their part to help the state out of its budget crisis, and they are encouraging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to extend the so-called millionaire's tax.

"Many of us New Yorkers are troubled that you're giving a $5 billion tax cut to 2 percent of New York's most wealthy, while cutting $9 billion from education and social services for the rest of New Yorkers," Ruffalo said in an online video addressing Cuomo.

"Please, ditch this backwards Robin Hood plan and give all New Yorkers a fair shake."

The millionaire's tax, which is slated to expire in April, takes about an extra 2 percent in state taxes from individuals making over $200,000 a year or families making over $300,000.

A group called New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness sent an open letter with about 100 signatures to Cuomo and state legislators Thursday urging them to renew the tax to avert the budget cuts.

Donald Shaffer, 82, an Upper East Side resident who worked in insurance and serves on the board of the Civil Liberties Union, said he signed the letter because he would be glad to pay the extra tax.

"This is what is decent and sensible as part of the social contract," Shaffer said in a phone interview Thursday. "We've done very well in our society, and we should be happy to see to it that others who require public services are not short-changed."

Cuomo's spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who oppose extending the tax, have said they worry it would drive wealthy New Yorkers out of the state, but Shaffer said that was "absurd."

"The mayor has not left," Shaffer pointed out.

Shaffer added that the recently extended Bush tax cuts would remove most of the burden of the millionaire's tax, so it would not have a large impact on people's finances.

The United Federation of Teachers and lower Manhattan parents are also advocating for the state to extend the tax, so the city doesn't get hit with over $1 billion in cuts to education funding.

Other rich city residents who signed onto the open letter include Bill Samuels, a Democratic activist and entrepreneur, and Leo Hindrey Jr., chairman of the Economic Growth/Smart Globalization Initiative at the New American Foundation.