No good deed goes unpunished. When the COVID-19 outbreak hit New York like a Category 5 hurricane, Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio put out an all-points bulletin for as many volunteers as possible to boost their health-care resources. Thousands of people responded, in many cases with the help of their employers, who continued to pay their salaries while coming to the rescue of New York.
Now that the crisis has passed, Cuomo reportedly wants to give these heroes a souvenir of their time in the Empire State — a tax bill, according to WPIX:
Health care workers that came to New York to help fight the coronavirus pandemic at its epicenter will have to pay state taxes, according to the governor.
He addressed the issues Tuesday at a news conference.
“We’re not in a position to provide any subsidies right now because we have a $13 billion deficit,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “So there’s a lot of good things I’d like to do, and if we get federal funding, we can do, but it would be irresponsible for me to sit here looking at a $13 billion deficit and say I’m gonna spend more money, when I can’t even pay the essential services.”
Even though the state government asked thousands of people to come to New York from out of state to help fight coronavirus, they will have to pay New York state taxes, even on income they might make from their home states that they’re paid while in New York.
That was news to the volunteers, including those at Samaritan’s Purse, which set up a temporary hospital in New York City. No one told him that their workers would create a tax liability on Day 15 that rates as one of the highest in the nation:
Ken Isaacs, the vice president of Samaritan’s Purse, a nonprofit organization that set up a temporary hospital in Central Park to help with the pandemic, told PIX 11 he was shocked to learn that workers who volunteered to come to the state would have to pay the state’s income tax.
“Our financial comptroller called me, and he said, ‘Do you know that all of you are going to be liable for New York state income tax?’ I said, ‘What?’ [The comptroller] said, ‘Yeah, there’s a law. If you work in New York State for more than 14 days, you have to pay state income tax,’” Isaacs said.
Isaacs noted that the situation could be a nightmare for organizations and their employees as they deal with the “bureaucracy and the paperwork” that comes with filing in multiple states.
That’s not the only rude awakening Samaritan’s Purse received in New York. After the crisis had passed, NYC council speaker Corey Johnson demanded their ejection, calling the Christian community-service group “bigoted, hate-spewing” for their embrace of traditional Christian sexuality:
Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion, and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community. 2/
— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) May 1, 2020
Can they at least take their money with them?
Anyway, watch the video clip at the Washington Examiner for the full context of Cuomo’s remarks. The reporter asks explicitly about the tax liabilities that volunteers may have unknowingly incurred while doing their best to assist New Yorkers in their hour of greatest need, so it’s not as if Cuomo got taken out of context — exactly, anyway. Cuomo turns the question around to demand that the federal government provide subsidies for their budget gaps and scold Donald Trump for partisanship, and says obliquely that granting an exemption from this tax liability would be a “subsidy” that the state can’t afford. Cuomo may not be explicit in his answer, but the implication is clear — those people who put their lives and health on the line to help will get stuck with a tax bill for their efforts.
That’s so awful morally and politically that it surely can’t be sustained … can it? Does Cuomo really plan to shaft the people who came to New York’s rescue just to use them as pawns in his political gamesmanship with Trump and Mitch McConnell? That won’t exactly build up any goodwill outside of New York for the idea of pitching in to help them with their budget woes, especially when those volunteers return home to their own states to tell their neighbors what a bunch of ingrates they left behind in the Empire State.
And the next time New York asks people to volunteer in a crisis, Cuomo et al had better not be surprised when all they hear in return is crickets chirping.