By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Millionaires, not children, should bear the brunt of New York's budget crisis.
That was the message downtown parents and the United Federation of Teachers sent Wednesday afternoon from the steps of Tweed Courthouse. The advocates called on the state to extend the so-called "millionaire's tax" as a way of averting planned education cuts.
"There is a very clear, simple solution," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the UFT. "Let's do what's right for our children."
The millionaire's tax — which takes about an extra 2 percent in state taxes from individuals making over $200,000 a year or families making over $300,000 — is slated to expire this spring. By keeping it in place, the state could see an extra $1 billion in its coffers this year and $4 billion next year, said Julie Menin, chairwoman of Community Board 1.
"We feel very strongly that the tax should be extended," Menin said. "It's imperative."
To contend with expected budget shortfalls, including the state cutting over $1 billion in education aid, the city is already planning to lay off teachers and may scrap school construction projects. Class sizes could rise 11 percent in kindergarten through third grade this fall unless the city gets more funding, Mulgrew said.
CB1 overwhelmingly passed a resolution in support of the millionaire's tax at a meeting Tuesday night.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also supports continuing a version of the tax, but the proposal faces strong resistance in the Republican-controlled State Senate. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo also oppose the tax, worrying that it will drive wealthy New Yorkers out of the state.
Menin disagrees, pointing out that a couple making $350,000 a year would pay just an extra $3,500 under the tax, while a couple making $1.5 million a year would pay $31,800 more.
"People are not willing to leave their friends, their job, their community [for that amount of money]," Menin said.
Dennis Gault, a public school teacher and a CB1 member, said the choice to extend the tax should be an easy one.
"It breaks my heart to think that there are babies in this city who will be denied services if the wealthiest New Yorkers get a tax break," Gault said.