The Green Party (GPNY) called today for a state budget that embraced the goals of Dr. Martin Luther King's Poor People's Campaign, rather than the regressive fiscal policies of Governor Cuomo that have locked the state into having the greatest income inequality in the country.
In addition to his leadership in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Movement, Dr. King called for system change that would eradicate poverty, hunger and homelessness. Dr. King called for single-payer healthcare to address one of the most egregious forms of injustice – disease and death due to lack of healthcare.
"The Greens want a state budget that invests in everyday New Yorkers, that ensures a quality education, affordable housing, living wage jobs and quality healthcare for all. We need to lower taxes for average New Yorkers and raise them on the wealthy and large, multi-state companies. It is wrong that a janitor at Trump Tower pays a higher state and local tax rate than Donald Trump," said Gloria Mattera, co-chair of GPNY.
"Fifty years later, we are still fighting 'to open the doors of opportunity' invoked by Dr. King in his 'I Have a Dream' speech," said Serena Seals, Black Lives Matter activist and 2017 Green Party candidate for Syracuse Common Council. "We are still fighting to end poverty, homelessness and hunger. We are still fighting for equality, justice and healthcare for all. Now the time has come for us to pull together as one. I know that, if we are integrating the goals of The Poor People's Campaign into our own party's Ten Key Values, then one day we will win: the people will win," said Seals.
The Green Party said the state budget should include:
a single-payer healthcare system to provide quality care to all while reducing overall costs by $50 billion annually, and eliminating local property taxes for Medicaid
a multi-year, firm commitment to invest more than $100 billion in mass transit in the state, starting with the MTA
increased subsidies for renewable energy to speed up the transition for 100% clean energy by 2030, paid for with a state carbon tax that makes polluters pay for the damage they cause by burning fossil fossil fuels;
new housing subsidy programs to cap rent and housing costs at 30% of a household income, including raising the public assistance shelter allowance to reflect actual housing costs;
increased funding for education to comply with existing court orders to provide equity in school funding
restore state revenue sharing to local governments to the 8% level promised by Governor Rockefeller. Cuomo has maintained local property taxes at high levels while forcing them to cut back on essential local services and infrastructure maintenance and upgrades.
The Green Party said it endorsed the goal of the revived Poor People's Campaign, first started by Dr. King and the civil rights movement in 1968. King said it was time to demand better jobs, better homes, better education-better lives than the ones they were living
"We need to build a New York that is based on equality, rather than leading the nation in income inequality. We must end the pervasive segregation in our schools and housing. We must recognize that those who will suffer most from climate change are the economically disadvantaged. It is time to end the system where the voices listened to at the state capitol are the ones who make the largest campaign donations," said Peter LaVenia, co-chair of GPNY. The Green Party has long advocated for full public campaign financing.
"While we were glad to hear that the Governor now supports the long-time Green Party position to divest the state pension funds from fossil fuels, he needs to do more than just ask Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to take action. He should stop the $88 million he included in last year's budget to build new gas turbines to burn out-of-state, fracked gas to power the Empire State Plaza and, instead, model how to use renewable energy. His plan should include divestment in the state budget, and reinvest the $5 billion-plus in renewable energy," said Mattera.
Last week, NYC announced it was going to divest the city pensions from fossil fuels.
In Europe, public pension funds have provided much of the investment in offshore wind (OSW), attracting the infrastructure investment needed to drive the costs of OSW projects down to 5.5 cents per kwh. The project, recently-approved by LIPA, will cost three time that. The Greens said that public entities such as NYPA should start building renewable energy sources such as wind and solar farms, which would also help reduce the frequent opposition to the siting of such projects. NYPA should also pay for the upfront costs to install solar and geothermal energy for building, recouping the costs through lower energy bills.
The Green Party said it supports higher taxes on the wealthy as well as congestion pricing for NYC to raise the funds needed to address the MTA crisis. It said the state, for at least the next five years, should halt the $16 billion-a-year stock transfer tax rebate to Wall Street speculators, and divert the funding to mass transit.
The Greens also called for the budget to impose a ban an all plastic bags at retail stores and impose a 5 cent fee on other single-use bags. The revenues should be devoted to environmental programs. Last year, the Governor and State Legislature blocked a plastic bag law passed by NYC.
The Greens said they were skeptical of Governor Cuomo's push for a payroll tax to replace the state income tax as a response to the loss of deductibility in the federal tax bill for local and state taxes.
"Payroll taxes are regressive and historically have been bad for workers. The Governor, as usual, mainly focuses on helping the most affluent taxpayers. We oppose solving the state budget deficit by cutting essential services. Instead, he should agree to make the wealthy finally begin to pay their share and to invest in programs needed to improve the quality of life for the average New Yorker," added LaVenia.
Peter LaVenia, Co-chair,GPNY firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-495-8001
Gloria Mattera, Co-chair, GPNY email@example.com or 917-886-4538