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New York State Assembly Democrats are mulling an array of new and higher taxes on the rich as well as legalization of mobile sports betting and marijuana to address a fiscal crisis fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawmakers discussed raising taxes to close a projected massive budget deficit next year during a grim, private remote meeting held all-day on Wednesday.
“If there was an idea to raise money, it was discussed today,” Assembly Education Committee Chairman Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx) told The Post afterward “Everything was discussed at great length.”
Benedetto said “it’s a given” that “we’re going to be billions of dollars short” in revenue to balance the 2021-2022 state budget — and that lawmakers will have to approve difficult tax hikes, spending cuts or both.
The tax talk session comes as the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is waging a phone banking campaign urging voters to pressure their state representatives to back taxing the rich as an alternative to spending cuts for the needy.
Benedetto said while the lame-duck Congress — or president-elect Joe Biden and the new Congress — might cough up some funds to aid cash-starved state and local governments, it’s unlikely it will be enough to cover Albany’s massive hole.
“It was a very sober meeting. There’s going to be more sober meetings. It’s heavy stuff,” Benedetto said.
Currently, sports betting in New York is only permitted in person at a handful of upstate casinos. After years of inaction, Assembly Democrats are talking more seriously about approving mobile sports betting, which has been a economic bonanza in neighboring New Jersey. Yankees president Randy Levine is among those calling for mobile sports betting.
Democrats who control the Assembly are more open to tax hikes than spending cuts to education, health care and social services — particularly in the middle of a pandemic-fueled recession.
The talk of tax hikes are preliminary and the budget must be negotiated with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic-run Senate and Assembly.
During a remote press briefing Wednesday, Cuomo said tax hikes and spending cuts — including layoffs of government workers — will be necessary and painful medicine if Washington doesn’t come to the rescue with a bailout package.
“If we do not get federal funding, the consequences are going to be devastating to this state, and the families and governments within the state. You can see the layoff of several thousand government workers unless the federal government is truly responsible and accountable, and really gives New York the funding it deserves,” Cuomo said.
“You’ll see tax increases….you could see dramatic tax increases that would hurt families and hurt the economy.”
Cuomo also has said the time has come to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The state would taxes the sales of weed and charge licensing fees to pot providers.
Meanwhile more than 30 liberal state lawmakers — including a class of newly elected Democratic Socialists — will participate in a press conference Thursday pushing for Albany to approve $35 billion in “wealth taxes” on billionaires and millionaires.
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