By RICK KARLIN
ALBANY — The day after its unveiling, state lawmakers on Wednesday approved an overhaul of the state’s income tax brackets in a way that provides a modest measure of middle-class relief, but increases rates for the state’s wealthiest residents.
“This is the best path for this state at this time,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said after the Senate passed the measure 55-0; the Assembly passed it later in the evening. “The more you make the higher rate you pay. That I believe is fair.”
The package, with middle-class tax cuts but higher rates for those earning more than $2 million a year, was brought forward after Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos hammered it out in classic three-men-in-a-room fashion.
And while it raises less money than some would like, the measure included elements that offered something for everyone — so much so that even the most conservative lawmakers heaped on the praise.
“Today we’re ending, hopefully, the 2011 legislative session on a really positive note,” Skelos said.
“This was one of our best moments,” said GOP Sen. Jack Martins of Long Island, who noted that it resulted from bipartisan agreement.
“The brackets are better. We need the revenue,” said Manhattan Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger, who voted aye while expressing concern at the extreme speed that sent the legislation through the chamber. Barely an hour after the second 33-page piece of legislation in the package was printed, it had been passed by the Senate.