De Blasio talks millionaires tax, campaign finance reform

This was his fifth state of the city address

Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC homes
Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC homes

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday again called for the creation of a millionaires tax to pay for repairs to the city’s subway system.

During his fifth State of the City address, the mayor said his administration would “redouble” its efforts to increase the income tax rate for individuals who earn more than $500,000 a year and for couples who make more than $1 million. He framed the proposal as a way to hit back at the new federal tax law, which he called “the biggest giveaway to the wealthy and corporations in our history.” (The tax would not, however, apply to corporations or real estate investment trusts, who have been cited as among the biggest winners in the tax overhaul.)

He noted that the ability to make meaningful changes in the city’s subway system lies squarely with the state Legislature.

“Like it or not, only Albany can pass the legislation that can end this crisis,” he said. “I will sit down with leaders in Albany, any time, anywhere, to find a solution to the subway crisis.”

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The mayor doesn’t seem to have an ally on the millionaire’s tax in the governor’s office. In August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters that the idea was “dead on arrival.” He’s pushed for congestion pricing as an alternative way to raise money for the MTA. De Blasio has voiced concerns about assuring that money raised in the city through congestion pricing gets spent on the city’s transportation system. He reiterated that concern on Tuesday.

“We need a guaranteed lockbox,” he said.

De Blasio also indirectly addressed some recent controversy in his administration. Though the mayor didn’t mention the recent various woes of the New York City Housing Authority, he made a point of saying that his administration is focused on the “400,000 public housing residents who have not gotten a fair shake in a long time.” A Department of Investigation report released in November found that for several years, NYCHA failed to inspect thousands of apartments for lead paint but falsely claimed that it had.

He also called for the exploration of “deep public financing in city elections” and for increased transparency surrounding meetings between public officials and lobbyists. The mayor said city commissioners and mayoral staffers will have to disclose their meetings with lobbyists starting next month.

The mayor’s own campaign fundraising practices have come under fire over the last few years. State and federal investigations had focused on whether de Blasio solicited donations from developers and others who had business before the city in exchange for political favors. No charges were ultimately filed in either case.