Senior lunches, emergency meals for the homeless, and supplies for food pantries were all on the menu at this morning’s “Austerity Breakfast at Tiffany’s” organized by the Human Services Council. The event was part of a week-long effort to build public awareness of the choices being made by Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders to reduce taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers while simultaneously slashing services for those most in need.
HSC and other members of the 99 New York and Beyond May 12th Coalition called on the State to extend the personal income tax surcharge on high income New Yorkers which is scheduled to expire on December 31st. Elimination of the surcharge will cost the State $5 billion in annual revenues critical during the current economic crisis, causing further cuts in critical human services. HSC also thanked wealthy New Yorkers who are willing to give up tax breaks to pay for services to those in need.
At the “breakfast,” held outside the iconic Tiffany’s jewelry store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, the character Holly Golightly - made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s - happily exchanged a $20,000 necklace for 3,800 senior lunches, a $7,000 watch for 3,500 emergency meals to street homeless, and a $25,000 bracelet for 2,000 family food packages at food pantries, illustrating dollar for dollar the amount of food services that could be provided with revenue from the PIT surcharge.
“This symbolic act demonstrates how a 1% progressive tax increase sustains programs that so many New Yorkers depend on,” stated Michael Stoller, Executive Director of HSC. He added, “We applaud high-income earners who recognize the importance of protecting the public investments that help all New Yorkers succeed”
The surcharge amounts to about a $20,000 tax on every million dollars. “As a higher income individual I can afford to pay a little more to support vital services for millions of New Yorkers who are going hungry,” said Sarah Stranahan, a high income New Yorker and a supporter of the Millionaire's Tax. “Extending the PIT tax makes sense, it’s an important part of the solution to balancing our state budget crisis, and trust me, the wealthy will still be shopping at Tiffany’s."
“As a successful businessman and entrepreneur I deeply believe that those well off must share in the sacrifice to get our economy going again,” said Bill Samuels. “This idea that trickledown economics is going to pull the economy out of its doldrums has been disproven time and time again. If we are to restore confidence in the markets and most importantly among the 99% of New Yorkers who are struggling through this economic downturn, the wealthiest 1% must do their fair share and give up these tax breaks for the common good.”
Representatives from the Hunger Action Network, Coalition for the Homeless, and Queens Community House were also on hand to make the exchanges, accompanied by community groups who rely on these services such as Community Voices Heard and New York Communities for Change.
"With record numbers of homeless children and families, cutbacks to vital services, and emergency food programs unable to meet the rising need, now is obviously not the time to give a tax break to the wealthiest New Yorkers. We're thankful that some of New York's well-to-do recognize that eliminating the millionaires tax is wrong for vulnerable kids and families and wrong for New York," Giselle Routhier, Policy Analyst, Coalition for the Homeless.
"New York State is facing record homelessness and hunger and has over 1.4 million residents either unemployed or underemployed," stated Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness. “With so many New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet, one has to question the Albany logic that will allow New York's wealthiest residents to get a $5 billion tax cut on New Year’s Eve. This 'let them eat cake' scenario simply defies logic, and poll after poll shows the public will not tolerate it
“Reductions to funding at the city, state, and federal level have crippled services for the children, youth, immigrants, working families, and older adults who are served by Queens Community House since the recession’s onset,” said Irma Rodriguez, Executive Director of Queens Community House. “I call on Albany to begin passing legislation that raises revenue instead of focusing entirely on budget cuts that hurt our most vulnerable neighbors.”