Essay: NY Should Pass Driver’s License Bill For Undocumented Immigrants

June 9, 2017. In this op-ed Jennifer Hirsch argues that issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants can help with economic development and provide additional revenue to help with economic struggles, such as flooding and urban blight. Hirsch goes on to argue how immigrants are not able to contribute to the local economy if they do not have transportation to local shops.

You might not think of access to driver’s licenses for our state’s estimated 775,000 undocumented immigrants as economic development. But an analysis by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer estimates it would boost statewide auto sales by 2.7 percent and lower individual auto insurance rates. The Fiscal Policy Institute projects $26 million in one-time tax revenues and $57 million in annual revenue through license and title fees and vehicle, parts and gasoline sales taxes.

The bill would ensure that drivers on our roads have been tested on our rules, provide access to insurance, and give the state more information about who lives in our midst. Twelve other states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar legislation, which does not violate the federal REAL ID act. Law enforcement officials and politicians from Dayton, Ohio, to Los Angeles see these laws as about public safety: New Mexico, for example, saw substantial declines in both traffic fatalities and uninsured motorists. Voices from across the state, from Ithaca to Buffalo, including Syracuse Mayor Kathy Miner, also support the legislation.

Here is the link to the Democrat & Chronicle.

Groups Seek Action in Albany to Counteract Trump Policies

June 5, 2017. FPI, along with other organizations, are urging the New York legislature to make changes that will counteract some of the harm from Trump’s policies. These include expansion of the Millionaires’ Tax, the right to clean water and air, expansion of voting rights and help for the homeless, as well as protection for immigrants and prevention of bid-rigging and bribery.

Ron Deutsch, who is with the union-backed think tank Fiscal Policy Institute, said Cuomo and lawmakers should act to address an economic development scandal in the governor’s office that’s led to nine former Cuomo associates charged with crimes including bid-rigging and bribery. Trials could begin as early as October.

“Many members of the governor’s inner circle are intertwined in this bid-rigging scandal,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch said one of the bills would reinstate the authority of State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to review the economic development projects before they are finalized to flag potential conflicts or illegalities.

Here is the link to WXXI News.

Watchdog Groups to Senate and Assembly: Don’t Come Home Without Passing Comprehensive Clean Contracting Reforms

For immediate release: June 5, 2017

Ron Deutsch, Executive Director
518-786-3156 (o), 518-469-6769 (c),


Watchdog Groups to Senate and Assembly: Don’t Come Home Without Passing
Comprehensive Clean Contracting Reforms

Legislature has yet to act on massive corruption risks revealed by biggest bid rigging scandal in New York State history

Watchdog groups again called on New York State Senate leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to pass comprehensive Clean Contracting legislation.

To date, the legislature has not passed the comprehensive reforms needed to reduce the enormous corruption risks revealed by the alleged rigging of $800m in upstate economic development contracts. In late October, nine people, including senior state officials, prominent Upstate real estate developers and political contributors to the governor, will go on trial for their alleged part in the scandal.

The groups specifically urged Flanagan and Heastie to pass the Comptroller’s Clean Contracting bill (S. 3984-A/A.6355) in its entirety and expressed strong support for the bill’s key provisions including:

  • Forbidding state controlled nonprofit organizations from contracting on behalf of the state unless specifically allowed by the legislature. (State controlled nonprofits like Fort Schuyler Management Corporation are at the center of the Upstate bid rigging scandal.)
  • Requiring state authorities to use procurement guidelines consistent with state agencies.
  • Giving the Comptroller the authority to pre-review SUNY/CUNY construction and  construction services, materials and printing contracts,  and OGS centralized contracts.
  • Requiring Comptroller approval of state funded SUNY Research Foundation contracts of over $1 million.

The Groups believe independent oversight is the only way to guarantee basic fairness to state vendors, including MWBE firms and small businesses.  The Comptroller’s review of existing contracts has already stopped 777 contracts and transactions valued at $28.15 billion this year alone due to fraud, waste, or other improprieties.  The average review of contracts took just six days in April.

Both Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate President John Flanagan have expressed support for procurement reform.  The Senate has moved the Comptroller’s bill out of committee and made amendments resulting from negotiations with the business community.  The Assembly version does not yet reflect the amendments.  One third of the Senate has co-sponsored the bill while the Assembly legislation has 25 co-sponsors.

The Comptroller’s legislation contains three of Five Clean Contracting Reforms Proposed by Watchdog Groups:

  1. Require competitive and transparent contracting for the award of state funds by all state agencies, authorities, and affiliates. Use existing agency procurement guidelines as a uniform minimum standard.
  2. Transfer responsibility for awarding all economic development awards to Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and end awards by state non-profits and SUNY.
  3. Empower the Comptroller to review and approve all state contracts over $250k.
  4. Prohibit state authorities, state corporations, and state non-profits from doing business with their board members.
  5. Create a ‘Database of Deals’ that allows the public to see the total value of all forms of subsidies awarded to a business – as six states have done.

Preview Changes

Radio: Create a Cleaner State Contract Process

May 23, 2017. Listen to Ron Deutsch, the executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, and John Kaehny, the executive director of Reinvent Albany on the Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter. Deutsch and Kaehny provide an update on the push to create a cleaner state contracting process.

Here is the link to the Capitol Pressroom.

Being Poor: Meet ALICE the Working Poor

May 22, 2017. FPI’s Ron Deutsch joins Reg Foster, President and CEO of the United Way of New York State, Sharon F. Owens
of Syracuse Community Connections and Stephanie Hoopes Halpin, PhD National Director of United Way ALICE Project on a WPBS special to discuss why the employed can be considered impoverished and what can be done to help these families. Ron argues that there are millions of New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet and that the federal poverty level is an antiquated measure that has no basis in reality. Ron also argues that while the $15 minimum wage is not the overall answer and that childcare should be taken into account and additional childcare should be provided because New York State is only meeting 15-percent of the demand. Ron also suggests investing more in rent subsidies. He also talks about the human services sector, where employees are also not making enough to make ends meet. He goes on to discuss how lower wage jobs are being added to the workforce but not higher paying jobs and that we are not training low-income people to fill the higher paying positions. He suggests that we need to reform our economic development system to a bottom-up approach, instead of the current top-down approach. Ron discusses his concern about Medicaid and how it is moving from an entitlement program to a block grant, which will only cover a smaller amount of people, which will in turn make the working poor lives’ harder. Lastly he discusses the need of assets that are needed to become economically secure and that we are not helping the working poor purchase homes, attend college and that Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) are underfunded. He suggests reforms such as tying the $9 billion spent on economic development programs on anti-poverty initiatives.

Here is the link to the WMHT PBS episode.

Another Voice: Driver’s License Should Be Available to All Immigrants

May 18, 2017. Jennifer R. Guzmán argues that undocumented immigrants, who we rely on for our dairy, fruits and vegetables, are struggling to fulfill their basic needs because they are prevented from obtaining a driver’s licenses and are overcharged for rides to work, the grocery store and other places. She goes on to discuss the benefits to all if the New York State Assembly Bill A4050 is passed. She cites FPI’s and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s reports in order to make this case.

This proposed law would benefit all New Yorkers. According to impact reports by the Fiscal Policy Institute and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, restoring access to licenses will boost state and local economies. License and vehicle registration fees will contribute to county governments and transportation infrastructure. And an increase in licensed drivers will likely lower insurance premiums for everyone. The average cost of auto insurance is $17.22 lower in states where undocumented residents can drive.

We rely on them for the dairy, fruits and vegetables we eat every day. Immigrant farmworkers shop in our businesses and belong to our churches. Their children are classmates with our children.

There are concrete benefits associated with Assembly Bill A4050, but more importantly, we owe this gesture of decency to our undocumented neighbors. We should urge our elected officials to pass this legislation.

Here is the link to The Buffalo News.

Statistics Show Syrian Refugees Help Host Country Economies

May 12, 2017. In an article featured in the Nonprofit Quarterly, the author argues that Syrian refugees contribute to their host countries’ economies and uses data on Turkey and the U.S. to demonstrate this. The author cites the report, “Syrian Immigrants in the United States: A Receiving Community for Today’s Refugees,” which was co-released by FPI and the Center for American Progress, to support her argument. She also argues that we should not focus on the negative rhetoric used, rather on the positive contributions that they can make to their host countries.

The Washington Post quoted David Dyssegaard Kallick, senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute, as saying, “The United States accepts refugees on humanitarian grounds, not to improve the American economy. But, the striking success of Syrian immigrants in this country should give us some confidence that Syrian refugees can become integrated and successful here.”

Maybe it’s time for the conversation to focus not on how to minimize the damage, but how to maximize the benefits. Maybe nonprofits focused on economic growth and those focused on refugee advocacy and integration have more in common than we previously thought. When we say that we’re stronger as a country when we’re inclusive and open, it has real meaning, and there’s data to back it up.

Here is the link to Nonprofit Quarterly.

Government Watchdogs Push ‘Clean Contracting’ Reform in Albany

May 11, 2017. FPI and a coalition of other organizations are calling on Governor Cuomo to sign a bill for “clean contracting” in response to the bid-rigging scandal last year. The coalition calls on the Governor to restore the power to State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for all state contracts exceeding $250,000, an end to non-academic contracting by state-controlled non-profit organizations, the creation of a comprehensive “database of deals,” and a prohibition against state authorities, corporations, and affiliated non-profits doing business with their board members.

“How many scandals and indictments are needed before we enact any meaningful reforms,” asked Ron Deutsch, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a think tank. “We need to restore the public’s trust and put real accountability measures in place to ensure that we have full transparency and a solid return on investment before we continue to provide billions of taxpayer dollars to private businesses under the guise of economic development.”

Here is the link to the Gotham Gazette.

Seeking Clean State Contracting

May 10, 2017. FPI’s executive director, Ron Deutsch, joins Alex Camarda, of Reinvent Albany, and David Friedfel, from the Citizens Budget Commission, on Capital Tonight to discuss the possibility of an anti-rigging bill being passed this year. Ron argued that the time for reform is now.

Here is the link to the Capital Tonight Episode.

Undocumented Immigrants in US Make Big Contribution in Taxes

May 4, 2017. This article discusses how immigrant youth, protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are often perceived as not paying taxes, when they do. In order to make this argument, they cite FPI and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy’s co-released report on DACA recipients tax contributions. FPI’s David Dyssegaard Kallick also argues that their tax contributions are often overlooked. The article also argues that DACA recipients hope that their tax contributions will help them when they apply for permanent legal status.

“Their contributions are very substantial. They’re a big part of the promise for the future,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Fiscal Policy Institute Research Institute and co-author of the study. Kallick added, “I think it’s not recognized enough that what they’re doing is, in fact, making a real contribution.”

The study, which was co-conducted by the Institute of Taxation and Economic policy, shows that the 1.3 million young people who are eligible for DACA (not all have applied), paid more than $2 billion nationally in state and local taxes in 2015.

In 2015, according to Fiscal Policy Institute Research Institute, America’s undocumented immigrants paid an estimated $11.7 billion in state and local taxes across the 50 states.

Here is the link to Voice of America.

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