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Forty millionaires ask New York to raise taxes on wealthy in ‘1% plan for fairness’

More than 40 millionaires on Monday asked New York state to raise taxes on the wealthy, under what they called a “1% plan for tax fairness”.

“As New Yorkers who have contributed to and benefited from the economic vibrancy of our state, we have both the ability and the responsibility to pay our fair share,” the millionaires said in an open letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers.

Saying they were “deeply concerned that too many New Yorkers are struggling economically, and the state’s ailing infrastructure is in desperate need of attention”, the millionaires urged “the governor and the legislature” to pass “the 1% Plan for New York Tax Fairness”.

The letter was put together with the Fiscal Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, and the Responsible Wealth project, a network of hundreds of the wealthiest Americans who support “fair taxes and corporate accountability”.

Among the backers of the plan are Steven Rockefeller, a fourth-generation member of the Rockefeller family; Elspeth Gilmore, who works to get wealthy people under 35 to donate to philanthropic efforts; and Joshua Mailman, son of the inventor and philanthropist Joseph Mailman.

The signees emphasized that funds are needed to address issues such as child poverty, homelessness and crumbling infrastructure.

“It is a shameful fact that child poverty in New York state is at a record level,” they wrote, “exceeding 50% in some of our urban centers. New York State has a record number of homeless families – more than 80,000 people – struggling to survive across the state. And far too many adults in our state do not have the work skills needed for the 21st-century economy.”

The millionaires added: “These human and physical infrastructure investments will pay off in the creation of new jobs, a workforce prepared to fill them and a reduction in the extreme income inequality that currently exists in our state.”

Lewis Cullman, retired chief executive of the At-A-Glance appointment book company, said he supported the plan because philanthropy does not pay for things such as street maintenance, food inspections or public schools.

“Those of us in the top 1% of incomes have a particular responsibility to contribute to the public sector at a higher marginal tax rate than everyone else,” Cullman said in a statement.

New York state lawmakers are working to sort a new income tax deal by 1 April. The existing tax rate schedule will expire at the end of 2017 and without a new deal in place, anyone making more than $40,000 will pay only 6.85%.

Under the current New York plan, people who have more than $2m in taxable income pay 8.82%. The millionaire’s proposal moves to have that rate apply to people who make between $1m and $2m.

From there, the millionaires say, rates should increase incrementally, with those who make $2m to $10m taxed at 9.35%; those who make $10m to $100m taxed at 9.85%; and those who make more than $100m taxed at 9.99%.

Organizers estimate the plan would raise state income tax revenue by $2.2bn.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Democratic-controlled New York assembly is also working to push through a plan that would impose higher tax rates on the state’s highest earners.

Last month, speaker Carl Heastie unveiled the plan, which has anyone making between $1m and $5m paying 8.82%; people making between $5m and $10m paying 9.32%; and people making more than $10m paying 9.82%.

Of the millionaires’ plan, Heastie’s communications director, Michael Wyland, said: “We support a higher tax on millionaires, however we haven’t had a chance to review the details of this proposal.”

The Republican-led state senate does not support tax increases for the wealthy.

After the assembly Democrats announced their tax plan, senate leader John Flanagan said: “Whether it’s income taxes, property taxes, business taxes, user fees or tolls, we don’t support raising taxes or asking hard-working New Yorkers to dig deeper into their pockets to pay more.”

Earlier this month a national group called Patriotic Millionaires backed a plan to close a New York tax loophole that benefits the wealthy.

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