Most north country residents would see a slight boost in their paychecks if an Albany-negotiated plan unveiled Tuesday afternoon is approved.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly have agreed to a deal that would cut income taxes for those who make less than $300,000, which makes up the vast majority of those who live in the north country. But it would hike taxes for people making more than $1 million, bringing $1.9 billion more into state coffers, easing next year’s budget gap and challenging state lawmakers’ pledges not to raise taxes.
For married couples filing jointly and making between $40,000 and $150,000, the income tax rate would drop to 6.45 percent, from 6.85 percent. That means a couple making $80,000 after deductions would take home $320 more under the plan.
Couples earning between $150,000 and $300,000 would pay a 6.65 percent rate, down from 6.85 percent. Individuals earning more than $1 million and couples earning more than $2 million will pay an 8.82 percent rate, up from 6.85 percent.
“Our state government has come together in a bipartisan manner to create jobs, grow our economy and, at the same time enact a fair tax plan that cuts taxes for the middle class,” Mr. Cuomo said in a news release.
The plan also includes a $25 million tax break for manufacturers, a program to help put inner-city youth to work, and a fund to help repair deteriorating roads and bridges in the state, flood recovery grants of $21 million and tax credits for small businesses and farms and counties. The legislative leaders — Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat — also agreed to vote on a constitutional amendment that would allow non-Native casino gambling in the state.
North country Republican state senators, who have spent all year arguing against an extension of a temporary personal income-tax surcharge on people who make more than $200,000, were warm to the idea of raising taxes — though they seem prepared to argue that it’s not a tax hike at all.
That’s because the plan might be passed before the end of the year. Lawmakers are expected to attend a special session this week. A personal income-tax surcharge, sometimes called the “millionaires’ tax,” is set to expire on Dec. 31. If it expires and nothing is done, all income tax rates will drop to 6.85 percent. If it is extended as is, the wealthy would continue to pay between 7.85 percent and 8.97 percent.
Frank Mauro of the labor-backed Fiscal Policy Institute said Cuomo’s plan “is certainly going in the right direction.” He said the tax rates have leveled for incomes over $500,000 a year. More brackets at higher incomes mean more opportunities to tax wealthier New Yorkers at a higher rate.
“This is a way to raise taxes on maybe one half of 1 percent of taxpayers that essentially allows a tax cut, adequate school aid, flood relief and new jobs,” said Richard Brodsky, a former assemblyman from Westchester who is now a senior fellow at the Wagner School at New York University. “Now that you look at it, you wonder why it took so long to get something like this moving.”
Sens. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, have raised no objections to the proposal.
“I think some people may end up paying more than other people, but ultimately they’re still paying less than today,” Mr. Griffo said.
But they would pay more than they would have paid on Jan. 1, 2012, if the millionaires’ tax expired.
Mr. Griffo said he was open to the plan, which he called a matter of fairness, but wanted to see more details.
Mrs. Ritchie’s staff did not make her available for comment. Tuesday night, she was at a holiday open house at her Oswego office, spokesman James E. Reagen said.
In a statement, Mrs. Ritchie appeared warm to the idea, citing the 0.4 percentage-point tax break that middle class families would receive. The statement did not address the possible tax hike on the wealthy. Mrs. Ritchie has argued that taxing the wealthy will help drive residents out of the state and harm small business owners.
Asked whether this equated to a dreaded “flip-flop,” Mr. Reagen said that the statement was sufficient.
When she ran for office, Mrs. Ritchie pledged never to raise taxes.
Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, made no such pledge. In fact, she argued that taxes must be raised on the wealthy to help ease the state’s budget woes. Next year, the state faces a $3.5 billion gap. She welcomed the agreement between the legislative leaders.
“This increase in revenue by reforming the tax code will provide a significant amount of money, enough to relieve some of the pressure that’s being placed on the state’s budget,” Mrs. Russell said.
On gambling, Mrs. Russell is the region’s sole dissenter. She does not believe that non-Native casino gambling in the state should be expanded.
Mrs. Ritchie polled her residents before taking a position on the matter. Her staff said that 67 percent of 8,100 respondents — not necessarily all residents of the 48th District — favored legalizing Las Vegas-style gambling in New York.
“I’m not a huge fan of expanding casino gambling, but I think that voters should have the right to say what they think, and would support putting the issue to a public referendum,” Mrs. Ritchie said in an emailed statement.
Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, who has said that he would only support a tax-code overhaul that didn’t bring any more money into state coffers, said that he supports putting legalizing gambling up for a public referendum. Changing the state’s constitution requires votes in the Legislature two years in a row, and then a public referendum.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.