Ten of the 12 members of the City Council’s new Progressive Caucus held a tax-the-rich press conference shortly after Mayor Bloomberg gave his private budget briefing this morning to elected officials.
Their theme: Everybody’s being asked to sacrifice -- except the fat cats of Wall Street and well-off New Yorkers. They called for higher tax hikes on Wall Street profits and on New Yorkers earning above $500,000 a year.
Leading the tax-‘em bunch was Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), who did most of the talking. Others included Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), Julissa Ferreras (D-Queens), Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) , Annabel Palma (D-Bronx), Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn) , Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), Deborah Rose (D-Staten Island and James Sanders Jr. (D-Queens).
While they downplayed the notion that they’re part of a mini-revolt, it’s unusual to have so large a segment of the Council speak up in unison on a budget this early in the process. The Council doesn’t usually reach a budget agreement with the mayor until mid-June, after prolonged behind-the-scene budget negotiations with Council Speaker Quinn’s finance staff and the councilmembers on the budget negotiating team.
Lander said the speaker was aware of the press conference, but deflected a question on whether she approved: “You’d have to ask her,” he said.
“We have to speak out,” one member of the caucus said of the move to inject the issue of tax increases into the troubled budget picture, indicating that some of them think Quinn has been too closely allied with the mayor on many issues, including the city budget.
Council insiders scoffed at the action by the progressive caucus, nearly half of whom are first-time members elected last year with the help of the Working Families Party. They said there’s not enough support for taxing Wall Street and wealthier residents among the majority of the 51-member Council. “They won’t happen,” said one.