Labor Day: Shines Light on NY Workers With Fewest Protections

August 31, 2012. A story reported by Mike Clifford, Public News Service – NY.

As New York heads into a long weekend to celebrate the contributions made by workers, local advocates say this Labor Day should shine a spotlight on local workers who have the least protections.

David Dyssegard Kallick, director of the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative, says immigrant day laborers are doing tough jobs and contributing to local economic growth, despite the fact that many work “under the table” in low-paying jobs with unsafe conditions.

In the ongoing debate over immigration, he says, these day laborers have been blamed for everything under the sun, with little concern for their welfare as workers.

“Instead of blaming day laborers, we should focus on pragmatic ways that day laborers could be paid fairly, and have safe and decent labor conditions. Labor Day is a great time to be taking a moment to think about how do we raise standards for all workers, and not just wind up demonizing some.”

In communities such as Long Island, Kallick says, the debate often has gotten so heated and polarized that it’s hard to craft workable solutions. On Labor Day, he says, he thinks all sides should at least be able to agree to the need to afford dignity to all workers in New York.

Experts skeptical of Ritchie’s tax-cutting figures

August 31, 2012. An article by Brian Amaral, Watertown Daily News.

In fliers mailed to Jefferson County residents, state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, claims to have saved taxpayers in her three-county district $36 million on their property tax bills.

But experts on the right and left say that the claim — based on her support for the 2011 state law that limits property tax hikes — is unknowable at best and misleading at worst.

Mrs. Ritchie’s office said that the claim in the flier, which was paid for with public funds, is based on a Senate Finance Committee report. The report compared tax levies at school districts in her Senate district from last year, before the cap, to this year, after the cap. The property tax cap limits the amount that schools, counties, towns or villages can raise from homeowners by a percentage determined by things such as growth in the community, pension costs and the health of the economy.

The report assumed that taxes would have gone up about 4.6 percent, which was the statewide average increase over 10 years, without the property tax cap. Then, the report tallied school districts’ levy increases that were below 4.6 percent. Any difference between how much taxes were raised and the assumed 4.6 percent figure was attributed to the fact that the state imposed a property tax cap. So, for example, if a school district raised its property tax levy by 1 percent, the tax cap saved homeowners 3.6 percent on their property tax bills, the report claims.

But that analysis is flawed, said Frank Mauro of the left-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute. Many of the school districts increased their tax levies by less than they were allowed to. Say the cap for a school district is 3 percent. A school district raises its levy by 1 percent. The cap didn’t stop that school district from raising the levy by 3 percent, so how did it stop the school district from raising its levy by 4.6 percent?

The 4.6 percent figure, too, is arbitrary, Mr. Mauro said, considering that each local government faces its own challenges and property taxes vary from region to region.

Unlike Mr. McMahon, Mr. Mauro isn’t sold on the property tax cap. He has argued that it could harm the quality of education.

Perhaps the most glaring flaw in the analysis, the experts said, is the fact that of the $36 million in savings for which the report gives the tax cap credit, $30 million was due to a tax levy cut at one school district. And the savings had nothing to do with the cap. The Oswego City School District cut its levy, or amount to be raised by taxes, by $28 million. That was a 50 percent decrease.

But it wasn’t because of the property tax cap that residents of Oswego County saw those tax cuts; rather, it was because of a renegotiated tax deal with the operator of a nuclear power plant in Oswego County. In lieu of paying property taxes, Constellation Energy paid the school district $24 million in 2012, according the Post-Standard of Syracuse.

Immigrant-owned firms employ 4.7 million people

August 28, 2012. Immigrants Twice as Likely to Start Small Businesses as Native-Born, by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov news blog.

The U.S. should be welcoming, and not demonizing, immigrants if it seeks job and economic growth, based on a new study about entrepreneurialism.

According to a separate report by the Fiscal Policy Institute, “firms for which half or more of the owners are immigrants employed an estimated 4.7 million people, 14 percent of all people employed by small business owners” and that 18% of small business owners are immigrants.

To Learn More:

Open for Business; How Immigrants are Driving Business Creation in the United States (by Robert W. Fairlie, Partnership for a New American Economy) (pdf)

Immigrant Small Business Owners: A Significant and Growing Part of the Economy (Fiscal Policy Institute Immigration Research Initiative) (pdf)

Gillibrand, Jeffries Visit Brooklyn to Push For Higher Minimum Wage

August 21, 2012. Local electeds gather in Bed-Stuy to announce their support of a bill in Congress to raise worker pay: an article by C. Zawadi Morris, Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch.

The current minimum wage, which is at a historic low, would be estimated at $10.50 an hour if indexed with the current rate of inflation. But at its current level, a minimum wage worker earns $15,000 annually – $3,000 below the poverty line, Gillibrand pointed out.

“Imagine how difficult it is to try to provide for your kids on $15,000 a year,” she said. “We have to do better for our families, we have to do better for our kids.”

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 would boost the incomes of an estimated 651,000 New York City workers, including approximately 195,000 Brooklyn residents, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, and generate an estimated $618 million of new consumer spending at New York City businesses according to the Economic Policy Institute.

How Immigrants Are Changing U.S. Businesses

August 14, 2012. Mark Koba reports for CNBC.

In the end, Kallick says his study is not about solving U.S. immigration problems – which seem unsolvable anytime soon. And Kallick adds that immigrants – legal or not – can’t cure the nation’s economic woes. But he says they have played an important part in the country’s past and are needed for its future.

“What we see is that immigrants don’t just come to the U.S. as workers but also as consumers and entrepreneurs and that helps the economy expand,” Kallick says. “We don’t make policy but we need a system that’s fair so immigrants can come here legally. It would be better for the economy if we did.”

A federal minimum wage hike would help 1.5 million New York workers and our economy

August 14, 2012. One of the best ways to speed up economic growth is to give a lift to the wages of the lowest paid workers.

Legislation awaits action now in Washington, D.C., that would boost the federal minimum wage in three 85 cent steps from $7.25 to $9.80 an hour. According to new estimates released today by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), this proposal would benefit 1.5 million New York workers, raising their pay by $2 billion over three years. Nationally, more than 28 million workers would get a raise.

Contrary to the oft-cited claim that a minimum wage increase mainly benefits teenagers, 90 percent of New York workers directly affected are adults age 20 and older. Three out of five minimum wage earners work full-time.

Roughly 55 percent of affected workers are women. The parents of nearly 1 million New York children would benefit from a minimum wage hike. In these families, over half of family income is earned by a minimum wage worker.

The additional consumer spending resulting from a minimum wage increase will create 100,000 jobs nationally, accord ing to EPI. About 5,000 of those jobs would be in the Empire State.

A wage boost will assist New York’s growing legions of working poor and will lessen our most-extreme-in-the-nation income polarization. Wage disparities between high- and low-income households are a major contributor to this dubious distinction – and  failure to raise the minimum wage has heightened that disparity.

In 1979, before New York’s income gap started to widen precipitously, a full-time minimum wage worker earned 42 percent of the state’s average weekly wage. Today, it’s 25 percent. If the minimum wage had maintained that 42 percent relationship to the average wage, it would be $12.88 an hour today, 78 percent more than $7.25.

With high unemployment and a weak economy, increasing the minimum wage is smart policy. It puts money in the pockets of people who spend a larger share of any increment of income than do those at higher income levels. It also helps small businesses who have reported since the recession began four years ago that poor sales are their biggest problem.

What is Washington waiting for?


Posted by James Parrott.

Social Security and Medicare programs speak to American values

August 9, 2012. An op ed by Dr. Brent Kramer and Dr. Susan Birns from the Berkshire Eagle. Kramer is an adjunct assistant professor of economics at the City University of New York and a research associate at FPI. Birns is professor of Sociology/Anthropology/Social Work at MCLA and board president of the Elizabeth Freeman Center.

FPI and CBPP: Ryan Budget Takes Billions out of New York

August 8, 2012. Today the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a new report showing that a “Cuts Only” approach to reducing the federal deficit would drastically cut federal investments in education, roads and bridges, and disaster relief. Cuts of this magnitude would do great damage to the economy. FPI’s press release (below) highlights the fact that the House-passed “Ryan Budget,” a prime example of the “Cuts Only” approach, would cost New York state and local governments $2.7 billion in 2014 alone and $21.2 billion from 2013 through 2021.

Contact: Frank Mauro, 518-469-6680 (cell)
New report including New York impact:

Albany, NY – Any effort to significantly reduce the federal deficit without new revenue would almost certainly do great damage to both New York State’s current economic recovery and its future economic growth according to an analysis released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a non-partisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

The President and Congressional leaders generally agree that to keep the national debt from growing faster than the economy, the federal deficit must be reduced by at least $3 trillion over the next 10 years, in addition to the roughly $1 trillion in savings required by last summer’s Budget Control Act (BCA). The CBPP analysis shows that any plan to cut the federal deficit this drastically without significant new revenues would require deep cuts in federal aid to states and localities for basic public functions such as educating children, building and maintaining roads and bridges, protecting public health, and providing law enforcement.

According to the new CBPP report, the plan proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R – Wisconsin) and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 29, 2012, is a real life example of such a “cuts only” approach. Under Ryan’s plan, New York State would lose an estimated 22% or $2.732 billion in federal funding for education, clean water, law enforcement, and other state and local services in 2014 alone, according to the new CBPP report. Ryan’s plan also would shift other very large costs to New York and the other 49 states by reducing sharply federal funding for Medicaid (in addition to repealing the health reform law), and likely by making deep cuts in funding for highway construction and other transportation projects.

“Deficit reduction shouldn’t come at the expense of America’s economic future and it does not need to,” said Frank Mauro, director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. “If Congress doesn’t take a balanced approach that includes revenue increases, the spending reductions required would be of a magnitude that would do significant damage to our ability to educate our children, build roads and bridges, and have clean water and safe communities – all key elements of a strong future economy.”

Ryan Budget Would Cut Federal Funding for New York and the Other States Far More Than “Sequestration”

The new CBPP report also documented that the funding cuts to states, counties, and cities under the Ryan budget proposal would far exceed the automatic cuts scheduled to begin in January pursuant to last summer’s Budget Control Act (BCA), often referred to by the term sequestration. In 2014, the Ryan budget cuts would be three times as deep, inflicting far more damage than sequestration. In later years, as the sequestration cuts diminish but the Ryan cuts remain as deep, the difference would be even larger.

Specifically, the Ryan budget proposal likely would reduce federal funding in these areas:

  • Education. Head Start, teacher quality programs, special education, and schools in high-poverty areas likely would face deep cuts.
  • Transportation. Likely cuts would hurt New York’s ability to build and repair roads, bridges, airports, and public transportation systems.
  • Public safety. New York would likely have less funding for disaster assistance and grants programs that help local police departments hire, train, and equip officers.
  • Community development. Funds that help improve water and sewer systems and revitalize deteriorating neighborhoods likely would face cuts.
  • Housing. There likely would be less funding for the already under-funded rental assistance program and less funding for heating and cooling assistance for low-income people, many of them elderly.
  • Workforce. New York would have fewer resources for workforce training and placement services and childcare assistance for low-income working parents.
  • Health. Funding cuts would hinder New York’s ability to keep community health centers open, provide mental health and substance abuse services, and give nutrition support to low-income mothers and young children.


Michael Mazerov, Gerry Norlander, Eric Kingson

August 2, 2012. FPI’s Frank Mauro spoke with Michael Mazerov, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who has written extensively on ways to close state corporate income tax loopholes and broaden state sales taxation of services. He also analyzes federal legislation that affects state taxing powers and has blown the whistle on a number of attempts by large corporations to secure special interest legislation to undercut state taxing powers. They discussed a federal bill – the Marketplace Fairness Act – that would actually assist state and local governments in collecting taxes that are due but frequently go uncollected.

Gerry Norlander, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project, has been with PULP since 1989, participating in regulatory and judicial proceedings on behalf of utility consumers and writing articles on related issues. Norlander blogs on current issues related to energy and telecommunications. He talked about the way that residential consumers are (and should be) represented in rate setting and other proceedings – in particular, describing a current price fixing case involving the Constellation Energy Commodities Group.

Eric Kingson, professor of social work at Syracuse University whose career includes serving as policy adviser to two presidential commissions, discussed his work as co-director of Social Security Works. He described current threats to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and about the resources and opportunities available to people who want to become more engaged in the discussion of related issues.

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