Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has jumped on the bandwagon in favor of raising New York City’s top resident income tax rate — just a day after two undeclared 2013 mayoral candidates, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and then-City Comptroller William Thompson stepped (somewhat gingerly) off it.

Back in 2009, both Quinn and Thompson advocated raising the New York City resident income tax on high-income households.  More recently, different plans to raise the top rate have also been floated by three other prospective Democratic candidates — Comptroller john Liu, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and, most recently, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

However, after the New York Post published my op-ed Monday noting that the five leading prospective Democratic mayoral candidates seemed unanimous in advocating a higher top income tax rate for city residents, a reporter from The Wall Street Journal went back to Quinn and Thompson to see if their positions had changed.  As the paper reported Tuesday, Quinn (through a spokesman) and Thompson say they are no longer pushing income tax increases — for now, at least:

“Everything is determined upon the fiscal situation that you’re in and what else you can do—raising taxes is a last resort,” Mr. Thompson said.

“When I made the recommendation in ‘09, we were in I would say dire financial times. Right now, I’m not going to make a prediction on anything having to do with taxes. I want to see where things are next year.”

Ms. Quinn on Monday repeatedly declined to answer questions about her position on income taxes. Her spokesman, Jamie McShane, said the speaker is no longer pushing her 2009 proposal, in large part because of Albany’s decision last year to change the state income-tax rate for high earners.

Ms. Quinn hasn’t ruled out the possibility of calling for tax increases, but that isn’t a position she currently holds, Mr. McShane said.


In a statement emailed by her office, Ms. Quinn said, “In these tough fiscal times, with billions of dollars in deficits in the coming years, we need a balanced and responsible approach to ensure that we have the programs we need, vital services are protected and New York continues to remain on strong financial footing.”

In a subsequent news conference, Quinn was far more emphatic in promising not to increase city property taxes — which no one is proposing.

NOTE: My Post column incorrectly described an aspect of one other candidate’s proposal.  In unveiling his plan during a speech earlier this year, Stringer said he aimed to cut taxes for families earning under $300,000, which I interpreted to mean that he intended to increase taxes on incomes over $300,000.   Wrong. As confirmed by the Independent Budget Office, Stringer’s proposal includes a complex “benefit recapture” provision designed to  keep taxes the same for those earning between $300,000 and $1 million.

In fact, Stringer’s revenue-neutral tax plan,hiking the top rate to 4.33 percent, from the current 3.88, would apply only to taxable incomes above $1 million.  Which still doesn’t make it a good idea–just bad in a different way.  Looming just beyond the presidential election is a possible (if not likely) federal income tax increase, targeted at top brackets, which could include the reduction or possibly even elimination of the state and local tax deduction.  That makes this the worst possible time to thinking about a further rise in what is, already, the highest combined state and local tax rate in the nation.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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