Legislators Unite for People-Centered Recovery with Statement of Principles

Over 100 New York State Senate and Assembly members, along with statewide unions, the Fiscal Policy Institute, and the Strong Economy for All Coalition, called for no state budget cuts without raising revenue. The coalition has released a signed statement of principles calling for a balanced state tax policy where everyone pays their fair share and a post-pandemic economic recovery plan centered on the best engine for recovery for individual New Yorkers and their communities.

Read the full Statement of Principles here.

Press Release: One hundred New York State Senate and Assembly members today released a signed pledge to refuse to allow state budget cuts without raising revenue through new taxes on the ultrawealthy. In their statement of principles, cosigned by labor unions, economic justice advocacy organizations, the legislators called for a balanced state tax policy where everyone pays their fair share and pledged support for a post-pandemic economic recovery plan centered on the best engine for recovery – individual New Yorkers and their communities.

The coalition noted, “Working people, poor people and people of color have been hardest hit by the pandemic. They are getting sick and dying in disproportionate numbers and layoffs have fallen most heavily on lower-wage and precarious workers.” The legislators called for tax reform because New Yorkers who have already been most affected by COVID-19, especially low-income communities and communities of color, should not be hit again with state cuts to needed public services.

Legislators were unequivocal: There is no substitute for federal assistance, but while we wait for fundamental federal action, our state government must do all it can. Protecting essential services is required as the state cannot function without the organizations and people that work to keep everyone healthy, educate our kids, keep our streets, buildings, and public spaces clean and livable. The state can’t replace all the revenue lost from this public health emergency and raising revenue at the state level is not a substitute for federal assistance. Still, legislators refused to let the most vulnerable New Yorkers bear the highest burden.

The pandemic disrupted the lives of everyday New Yorkers in never before seen ways – including the sudden loss of employment and an abrupt loss of income. However, as the coalition noted, “the wealth of billionaires and ultra-millionaires has been largely protected — and in many instances has grown significantly,” which is why the alliance is asking where those least able to afford it are not asked to shoulder a disproportionate burden.

The need for just taxation reform is long-standing, as highlighted by the coalition. “Even before COVID-19, New Yorkers urgently needed major increased public investment in health care, public education from pre-k through higher education, housing, mass transportation, and many other fundamental services,” the coalition stated. The state’s previous adherence to austerity budgeting did not help prepare us for the pandemic and returning to this fiscal model will not help us recover.

Asking all New Yorkers to pull together and do their part is common sense. “The overwhelming majority of New Yorkers will not be affected by our proposals to raise taxes on high wealth. Working and poor New Yorkers rely heavily on public services to help them survive day-to-day. They are over-taxed and under-served because our tax system does not demand enough from ultra-wealthy New Yorkers,” the coalition stated.

Various legislative proposals have been submitted that would result in the greater economic justice the coalition is seeking. Those bills include increasing taxes on those earning $1 million a year or more, establish a pied-à-terre tax on secondary luxury homes in New York City and institute a new capital gains tax on billionaires.

 

Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried of Manhattan, chair of the Assembly Health Committee

“New York has the biggest income inequality of any state, and even before COVID-19 we urgently needed major increased public investment in health care, public education from pre-k through higher education, housing, mass transit, and many other fundamental services. Those needs are even more pressing now. We have to raise new revenue through taxes on high wealth, that wouldn’t affect the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers.”

Assemblymember Harvey Epstein

“Austerity politics was failing New Yorkers before COVID-19. Now, as our state starts on the road to recovery, we must raise revenue from the growing number of billionaires in our state, up from 112 to 118 since the beginning of these intertwined public health and economic crises.  We must find other sources of revenue from these individuals and corporations who can afford to pay more. Over 85 state legislators, good government groups, and the most powerful labor unions in our state are united in saying no cuts without raising new revenue from those who can afford to pay.”

Assemblymember Walter Mosley

“Our state is facing a financial crisis and we need to find new ways to generate revenue. I’ve long called for increases to the tax rate for high earners, and now more than ever we need to make that a reality. I’m proud to stand here and echo this call and I will continue to work in the legislature to make this a reality.”

Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal

“The COVID-19 public health and economic crisis has revealed and deepened structural inequities in our system. The way we navigate these unprecedented times will determine whether we continue to reinforce policies that concentrate extreme wealth within the hands of a few or help to build a fairer and more equitable society. New York is home to more multimillionaires and billionaires than any other place in the world, and it is beyond time that we ask them to contribute their fair share to support our vital public infrastructure. If we don’t ask the wealthy to step up and pay what they can easily afford, it will be the most vulnerable who bear the burden of this crisis – via disinvestment in their schools, in the public transportation they use to get to work, their health care and more. Cutting vital services is not the only avenue to fiscal security, and it is not an acceptable solution to New York’s financial trouble.”

Senator Robert Jackson

“The time for action to raise revenues is now. Our communities, schools and hospitals need and deserve the funding to rebuild our services. It’s time for the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay their fair share. Let’s create a stronger state where everyone does the right thing to strengthen our communities.”

Senator Jessica Ramos

“What the Legislature passed in April was an austerity budget that left out necessary funding for programs that millions of New Yorkers count on. Even as tens of thousands of people would be impacted by the coronavirus and its disastrous economic impact, our State idled on a proper recovery plan. My bill to establish a mark-to-market tax on the ultra-wealthy would generate up to $5 billion in just one year. We still have an opportunity to tax the rich and fund healthcare, education, a bailout for workers excluded from our stimulus plans and much more. New Yorkers deserve better and it’s time we decide on real solutions before it’s too late.”

Ron Deutsch, Executive Director, Fiscal Policy Institute:

“New York needs a post-pandemic economic recovery plan built on the fact that the people power our state. While we wait for necessary federal aid, we must do everything we can to forestall drastic budget cuts. New York cannot recover from the pandemic if our first response is to choke off revenue to hospitals, schools, small businesses, and fire teachers, nurses, aides – all the indispensable people and services that make our communities great. For the last ten years, our state has cut public services to the bone, which did not help prepare us for a pandemic. Clinging to an austerity budget model will only make hard times harder.”

Michael Kink, Director, Strong Economy for All.

“Long before COVID-19, New York’s working people and communities of color bore the burden of underfunded schools, hospitals, and localities — while billionaires and ultra-millionaires kept growing wealthier. Now, as our students, our teachers, and our nurses face even more severe budget cuts, a critical mass of legislators is saying enough is enough. These last three weeks have shown that when we come together to demand a better future, we can win. We applaud our elected officials for using their political will to stand up and deliver for working people.”

“As an at-risk disabled woman who relies on health insurance through CUNY, proposed cuts have forced me to re-evaluate my every move to limit a potential health conflict. These cuts also mean the at-risk student population that I serve will lose meaningful instruction and resources,” said Bianca Johnson, a Queens College adjunct instructor who has not received a reappointment for the fall semester. “The message being sent to the entire CUNY community is that cutting jobs and student services is an acceptable solution to financial hardship. It’s time Albany sent a different message that we value high-quality public higher education and economic justice to achieve it.”

“In this uncertain time, we need to put more supports in place for our students, not take them away,” said Colette Hebert, a Yonkers music teacher who received a layoff notice this month. “Music is not an expendable subject. It’s essential for underserved schools for its mental and emotional benefits that aren’t offered in any other class. Our students don’t deserve any more cuts. It’s time the state stepped up and asked the wealthiest pay what’s fair to help fund the subjects and services our kids need.”

“The prospect of cuts has not only left me in limbo not knowing whether I’ll still have a job this fall, it also has left my students not knowing how they’ll be able to access to highly specialized courses that they need to graduate,” said Maggie Keef, a Fashion and Textile Technology professor at Buffalo State. “These may be uncertain times, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We need the state to step in and simply ask the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share so we can avoid cuts that would only weaken New York’s higher education system.”

The Fiscal Policy Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education organization committed to improving public policies and private practices to better the economic and social conditions of all.

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Filed in: 2020, Blog, Must Read