New York state ranks only behind California for taxing the rich, Christine Quinn said at the Democratic Party’s state convention on Long Island.
"Second-highest millionaires tax in the nation, highest on the East Coast, only behind California but we'll find a way to beat them, too," Quinn, vice chairperson of the New York State Democratic Committee, said to applause from the party’s delegates.
When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took office in 2011 he was staunchly opposed to the tax on the state’s highest earners. He, like Republicans, thought it would prod high-income residents to leave the state and lead to less income-tax revenue.
Cuomo, however, has since fought to preserve the tax. He repeated Quinn’s claim in his speech at the convention.
"Our millionaires tax is the second-highest in the nation and the highest in the East," Cuomo said.
New York state has a reputation as a high-tax state. But does the state have the second-highest millionaires tax rate in the nation?
The millionaires tax
In 2009, state lawmakers and then-Gov. David Paterson raised the state income tax rate from 6.85 percent to 8.97 percent for earners making $500,000 or more. The tax, intended to help close the state’s deficit, was supposed to expire after three years.
Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed to extend the so-called "millionaires tax" before it ended, but lowered the rate to 8.82 percent for people making about $1 million or more. They eliminated the higher rate for filers making less.
The top rate remains at 8.82 percent in 2018. Democrats in the Assembly have proposed setting even higher rates for people making more than $5 million annually. Republicans oppose that proposal.
Some residents of New York State — but not all — pay the second-highest income taxes in the country.
Some cities in New York state, like New York City, collect their own local income tax on top of the state tax. Neither Quinn nor Cuomo made reference to the city in their speeches.
The highest earners in New York City pay a local income tax of 3.876 percent. That applies to single filers making more than $50,000 a year and married filers making more than $90,000. That rate was already in place before Cuomo took office.
The combined state and local income tax rate in New York City is 12.7 percent for people who make about $1 million or more. That’s less than California’s 13.3 percent state income tax rate, but more than the rates in the other states.
We couldn’t find another city in the U.S. with a higher combined state and local income tax rate. Richard Auxier, a research associate with the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, confirmed that New York City residents pay the second-highest combined rate behind California.
Quinn’s claim doesn’t hold up outside New York City. Seven states have higher income tax rates on wealthy earners, according to research from the right-leaning Tax Foundation, a tax policy analysis group. Auxier confirmed that finding.
California is highest, but two of New York state’s neighboring states also have higher tax rates on the wealthy. Vermont taxes people who make more than $416,650 at 8.95 percent and New Jersey taxes those making more than $500,000 at 8.97 percent.
In the Midwest, Iowa and Minnesota tax their highest earners at 8.98 percent and 9.85 percent, respectively. Oregon’s highest rate is 9.90 percent and Hawaii reinstated an 11 percent state income tax for wealthy earners this year.
New York state and California are the only two states with an isolated tax bracket for filers who earn about $1 million or more. The highest brackets in the other six states start lower, from $71,190 to $500,000.
Washington D.C., while not a state, also has an income tax bracket for filers making $1 million or more, and they are taxed at 8.95 percent.
No one from the State Democratic Committee offered an on-the-record explanation supporting Quinn's claim.
Christine Quinn said New York state has the "second-highest millionaires tax in the nation."
That’s only true for New York City residents. Millionaires outside New York City have a lower rate than those in seven other states.
Her claim contains an element of truth about New York City. We rate it Mostly False.