ALBANY — A leader of the New York Legislature is in a rush to pass a tax-the-rich measure before Christmas in a bid to raise revenue — while letting potential big-revenue measures like legalizing marijuana and gambling lie dormant until next year’s budget negotiations.
“I think something like an income tax, if you want to get a full year’s value of it, I think you do have to consider it now,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) told reporters Monday in the state capital.
Heastie said fellow Democrats in the state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo would have to agree to do an income tax on wealthy earners in such a short time frame.
“The governor still has the ability to say yea or nay,” he said.
Heastie spoke of a special session to raise income taxes after The Post reported that Assembly Democrats met last week and were mulling over legalizing pot and mobile sports betting as well as raising an array of taxes on wealthy New Yorkers to avoid deep cuts in education and social services to close projected massive state shortfalls of up to $14 billion.
Lawmakers are also feeling pressure from their left flank — including the Democratic Socialists of America and leaders such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who are waging a tax-the-rich lobbying campaign.
Heastie said the state could more quickly raise billions in additional revenues if lawmakers raise the income tax on millionaires and billionaires before year’s end.
Heastie said any law approved next March or April to raise income taxes — and applied retroactively — could be struck down as unconstitutional because the state is required to give taxpayers prior notice of any changes.
But other legislative sources said an income tax surcharge imposed in 2009 to address the Great Recession fiscal crisis was imposed retroactively.
Heastie suggested that more complex matters — such as legalizing weed for raising taxes on investments — would be debated early next year rather than in an emergency session.
The speaker acknowledged that Cuomo prefers to wait until he sees what financial relief Congress provides before pushing any controversial measures to boost taxes or slash spending.
Indeed, Cuomo on Monday afternoon rejected raising taxes in pre- or post-Christmas emergency session before seeing what action Congress and President Trump or President-elect Joe Biden take in the next few weeks.
“Doing it without the Washington funding is going to be really, really difficult, I don’t believe Washington gives us nothing,” the governor said during a remote COVID-19 press briefing.
He said taking drastic action now — only to see the feds later cough up funds that would significantly reduce the state budget’s hole — would cause unnecessary “disruption” to New Yorkers.
“They’ll bankrupt the nation if they bankrupt the states. So I think it’s smarter to get the number from Washington,” Cuomo said.
Heastie said he agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic is a national crisis and only the federal government has the resources to provide the necessary relief to aid suffering New Yorkers who are out of work or can’t afford to pay rent.
But he also said Albany can only sit idly by for so long and quoted Yankee baseball legend Yogi Berra to make his point. “`It’s getting late early,’” the speaker said.
“The pain is happening every day,” Heastie said.
He said the Assembly also wants to extend a law creating a moratorium on evictions.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers) kept the door open to holding an emergency session to hike income taxes.
“We are working with our partners in the Assembly to make sure whatever action we take helps to address the severity of the crisis at hand,” a spokesman for Stewart-Cousins said.