Green Party Unveils 2020 Legislative Agenda

December 19, 2019 - Albany - The Green Party of New York announced its four top state legislative priorities for 2019: enact Single-Payer Universal Healthcare through passage of the NY Health Act; move towards a Green New Deal with an initial $10 billion annual investment, a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure including in homes and buildings, and a declaration of a climate emergency; Marijuana Legalization and Criminal Justice Reform and Electoral Reform, starting with overturning the Public Campaign Finance Reform Commission's ballot access thresholds, reform of the campaign finance system they constructed, alongside ranked-choice voting and proportional representation to ensure democratic elections in New York State. 

Listen to the Green's December 19, 2019 press conference (Thanks to The Sanctuary for Independent Media).

Party leaders also said that it was time to raise taxes on the wealthy and stop rebating the stock transfer tax in order to close the looming $6 billion budget deficit. The Stock Transfer Tax, which is collected but then rebated to Wall Street traders, averages around $12 to 13 billion a year. 

“Halting, even if only partially, the rebate of the Stock Transfer Tax, would eliminate by itself the budget shortfall. But we need progressive income and corporate tax reform in New York that raises taxes on the wealthy and lowers them for working class New Yorkers.Our regressive system of state and local taxes is a major reason why New York regularly leads the nation in income disparity,” stated Peter LaVenia, Green Party of New York co-chair.

“With the Democrats now in control of the Governorship and both houses of the legislature, there is no excuse for the state to keep balancing the budget on the backs of working New Yorkers,” added LaVenia.

The Party also wants the state to restore revenue sharing with local governments to its former level of 8% of state revenues in order to provide tax relief to average New Yorkers facing high local property and sales taxes.

Enact Single Payer Health Care

The Green Party said New York should treat quality affordable health care as a fundamental right for all residents, along with a living wage job, housing, and education.

“It is time for Democrats to pass the New York Health Act and guarantee the right of all New Yorkers to affordable health care with no co-pays, deductibles or premiums. Studies show that a single payer system that covers everyone would lower overall health care costs by $45 billion in the first year alone. By folding Medicaid into a new state single-payer system, the state and local governments in New York would see a significant cost savings with the added benefit of covering all New Yorkers. The legislature should make passing universal single-payer healthcare one of its first acts this January,” said CJ Chapman, health care activist and Green Party member.

The Greens said that Cuomo should include single payer in his upcoming budget proposals.

Speed up Climate Action

The Greens support an official declaration of a climate emergency by all levels of government in New York, with rapid enforceable plans to enact a Green New Deal that combines speedy climate action with investment in living wage jobs and in environmental justice and low-income communities This includes at least 40% of climate funding invested in disadvantaged communities; 100% renewable energy by 2030; and a halt to fossil fuel infrastructure expansion, including buildings.

Despite passage of last year’s climate deal, which fell far short of the Green’s proposals, the Party said that Governor Cuomo has failed to act like there was a climate emergency. The CLCPA has yet to even go into effect partially because the Governor has not signed an environmental justice measure that the legislature made a precondition. The Greens say there is little evidence that the Cuomo administration will meet the new climate targets such as getting 70% of the state’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030.

Recent studies have shown we have even less than 11 years predicted by the IPCC to act before it is too late to prevent catastrophic climate change. Some European climate scientists recently wrote that we may have already passed the tipping point,

“We need an all-out mobilization - this is no time for half-measures when the survival of civilization as we know it is at stake. We need to halt all new fossil fuel projects, quickly phase-out existing fossil fuel uses, and to invest in wind, solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency. We have to dramatically cut the time it takes to site large-scale renewables. We support the proposal for at least a $10 billion annual investment in the Green New Deal,” said Mark Dunlea, the recent Green Party candidate for State Comptroller and one of the authors of the GND back in 2010.

The Green Party supports the Renewable Heat Now campaign, which seeks to prohibit expanding gas heating in homes and businesses and instead promote air heat pumps and geothermal. It would follow California’s lead in requiring new residences to be 100% carbon free and incorporate renewable energy. 

The Green Party support an ecosocialist Green New Deal, with a goal of 100% renewable energy for all sectors by 2030 and an economic bill of rights, including a guaranteed living wage jobs for all, single payer health care, mass transit, and expansion of public housing. It supports the proposal for an annual $10 billion investment in Green New Deal initiatives (including a major tax on the rich and greenhouse gas polluters, and the NY Renews proposals for an immediate $1 billion investment in various EJ community and worker initiatives.

The Green Party said it was encouraged that many groups are now mobilizing around their long standing call for public / worker ownership and democratic control of the energy system. The Greens want to democratize the NY Power Authority and empower it to own and build renewable energy systems across the state, including offshore wind and other renewable energy projects..The Party supports efforts to take over investor owned utilities to create publicly-owned and operated systems. 

The state should provide upfront funding to municipalities that want to create their own municipal renewable energy systems. Funding should be invested in community and worker-owned renewable energy and efficiency projects, including rebooting the state’s Green Jobs Green Home law to energy retrofit up to one million homes while creating thousands of living wage jobs.

“We support dedicated funding for a Just Transition including living wage job guarantees, and assistance for workers and vulnerable communities, including guaranteeing wages for existing workers in the fossil fuel industry and payments to local governments. Lawmakers also need to ensure - starting right now not next year - that at least 40% of climate funds are invested in environmental justice and low-income communities. This means going well beyond what is in the CLCPA, which the governor severely weakened on environmental justice and labor standards,” said Dunlea.

New York should require all new vehicles to be carbon free within the next ten years and dramatically expand funding for electric charging stations. Even more critical, the state needs to make a major investment in improving and expanding the mass transit system statewide, starting with adequately funding the capital and maintenance needs of the MTA. The MTA alone needs close to one hundred billion dollars for overall capital improvements. 

The Green Party supports a robust carbon tax to require polluters to pay for the damage they cause by burning fossil fuels. The tax would include all energy uses. It is estimated that at least 3,000 New Yorkers die prematurely from air pollution and that $30 billion in additional health care and economic costs are incurred. The Governor in December 2015 announced support for a regional tax on gas to pay for mass transit but has failed to take any further steps. The regional Transportation and Climate Initiative is looking at establishing a carbon price for transportation similar to the ineffective cap-and-trade RGGI programs which only charges $6 a ton for carbon permits. 

The Greens said it supported the Governor’s call to ban styrofoam but urged him to expand his initiatives to limit plastic straws and utensils, expand the bottle bill to other containers such as alcohol, and add a 5 cent fee for paper bags to the plastic bag ban set to take effect March of 2020.

The Greens oppose the Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line from Montreal to NYC for its negative environmental impact and the diversion of funds from local renewable energy and efficiency projects.

The Greens support the halt / shut down campaigns for Williams Pipeline, Cricket Valley gas plant, Danskammer, CPV, and of course, Indian Point. It supports a halt to all nuclear and fossil fuel plants. It supports a halt to any new or expanded fossil fuel infrastructure and an enforceable plan to invest in a transition to 100% clean, renewable energy as soon as possible. The Greens support 100% clean renewable energy by 2030 (when the Greens announced the GND in 2010, the target date was 2020).

The Greens said the Democrats needed to appoint members of the Greens, as representatives of the ecological party with official ballot status in the state, to the various councils, etc. being established by the CLCPA, along with strong overall representation from EJ, low-income, and other disadvantaged communities.

Legalize Marijuana

“It is long past time for legalization of marijuana in New York State, coupled with the end of the Drug War, dismantling the system of mass incarceration, freeing people arrested for drug use, and enacting real restitution to them and the communities devastated by a half-century of failed drug policies. New York State needs to move towards the successful Portuguese model, where all drugs have been decriminalized since 2001 and harm reduction strategies have been paramount,” said Kaleb Winters, Upper Hudson Green Party Chair.

The NYC Comptroller issued a report in May of 2018 that legalization could yield $1.3 billion in tax revenues for the state. 63% of New Yorkers now support legalization. While the Legislature passed criminal justice reform legislation last session, it failed to legalize marijuana recreational use. The Greens would release nonviolent drug offenders and expunge their records. Jobs and revenues should be targeted to the communities of color that have suffered most from the racist war on drugs.The state should provide funding for cooperatively-run marijuana stores where former drug offenders are given the first chance at employment and running those businesses. 

Electoral Reform

“When Grandpa Al Lewis first got the Green Party ballot status in 1998, he highlighted that campaign contributions were little more than legalized bribes. Campaign donors still own the mortgage on our state house 20 years later,” stated Peter LaVenia, Green Party of New York co-chair.

The Green Party called on the Legislature to pass real Electoral and Campaign Finance Reform, including full public campaign finance. The party said the Legislature should overturn the draconian ballot-access thresholds instituted by the Commission, reform the Commission's campaign finance plan by bringing down the still-high individual and party donation limits, and to ban party transfers.

Party leaders also called for instituting Ranked-Choice Voting and Proportional Representation. RCV, enacted in Maine, would eliminate the so-called spoiler effect and ensure majority winners in all elections. Proportional Representation would ensure all votes for legislative candidates count, end gerrymandering, and allow for multiple parties to win seats in the legislature.

“The electoral and campaign finance reforms passed by the Commission limit democracy and subsidize big money incumbents. We need the Legislature to overturn the ballot-access thresholds and instead allow 50000 votes for any statewide office or 20000 registrants to be the ballot-access threshold. While the Green Party wants Clean Money, Clean Elections reforms, the Legislature should at least act to lower the still-high individual donation limits to the federal standard, to limit the $117,000 cap on party donations to a far lower level and to ban soft money transfers from parties to candidates. 

We also need Ranked-Choice Voting and Proportional Representation in New York. RCV would mean candidates representing a district would always receive a majority of the vote, ending the alleged spoiler effect. Proportional Representation would mean that parties would receive seats in the legislature based on the proportion of votes they won in legislative elections. One way to do this - party list voting - would make the state one big district. This would end gerrymandering, ensuring all votes count; allow multiple parties a real chance to win seats in the legislature; and could provide better representation in the legislature for women and minorities. Both RCV and Proportional Representation would be a chance for real grassroots democratic reform in New York,” concluded LaVenia.

The Green Party also said the state needed to move to ban single-use plastics and to decriminalize sex work. The Greens also called for the Legislature to develop and fund the MTA with the $100 billion over the next decade it will need. The party also supported a congestion pricing plan for NYC that would directly fund the MTA and infrastructure.