The Fair Budget Campaign released its third annual People’s Budget today, calling for increased investment in the state’s most valuable resource: its people. The Fair Budget Campaign is a cooperative project of ten statewide organizations that represent religious, senior citizen, community, student, environmental and taxpayer perspectives.
The leaders of the campaign’s member organizations joined together at a noontime press conference in the Legislative Office Building to call for increased investments in education, housing, job creation, higher education and environmental protection. The People’s Budget also calls for an expansion of health care coverage; an increase in the personal income tax for wealthy New Yorkers and a reduction in corporate tax breaks; expanded prescription drug coverage for seniors; and enactment of legislation to hold corporations accountable for creating jobs with the various public subsidies they receive.
The Fair Budget Campaign also called upon the legislature to end the practice of multi-year tax cuts that do not take effect for years but which substantially limit the state’s fiscal choices. The multi-year tax cuts enacted in 1997, 1998 and 1999 have created structural deficits of $2.8 billion for 2000-2001 and $4.6 billion for 2001-2002.
The People’s Budget calls upon the state government to stop catering to corporate special interests and start investing in New York’s “human infrastructure.” According to Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of SENSES, “New York is one of the
wealthiest states in the country, but 25 percent of our children live in poverty, over 3 million people are without health insurance and 1.5 million New Yorkers per month use emergency feeding programs. The national rising tide is not lifting all boats in New York. While some sail in their yachts others are still searching for life rafts.”
“All of the faiths are unanimous in seeking justice between those who have or those who have not,” said Ed Bloch, Director of The Interfaith Alliance of New York State. “It’s abominable that the polarization of wealth and income increases with each month that passes in New York. The People’s Budget sets an agenda that addresses many of these injustices.”
“Corporations that receive state and local government subsidies must do business in an economically, socially and environmentally responsible manner,” said Frank Mauro, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. “If we’re going to provide tax breaks to specific businesses in the name of job creation, then it’s only logical that we require those firms to create jobs (and to repay the taxpayers if they do not), and that we relate the size of a firm’s breaks to its actual level of job creation.”
Prescription drug coverage for thousands of New York’s seniors is a major issue facing the state. “Recent news stories have highlighted the crucial importance of the cost of prescription drugs for older people,” said Mike Burgess, the Executive Director of the statewide Senior Action Council of New York State. “The good news is that New York State has the chance to do something meaningful about this issue in early 2000.”
“There are 3.2 million New Yorkers without health insurance, and many more who cannot afford their insurance premiums,” said Christy Margelli, Deputy Director of Citizen Action of New York. “With the tobacco settlement money coming, and the availability of federal matching funds for health care coverage, New York State has the funding to provide coverage to uninsured adults. We call upon the legislature and the Governor to pass Family Health Plus.”
“Clean water, clean air, and the protection of our natural resources for future generations has to be a part of any people’s budget,” said Jeff Jones, Communications Director of Environmental Advocates. “We need funding to enforce state environmental laws, clean up contaminated industrial sites to protect public health and revitalize the economy, improve public transit and control the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides. This year’s People’s Budget helps protect the environment for all New Yorkers.”
“The Governor’s proposed financial plan for the State Superfund is too little and too late,” said Anne Rabe of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition. “His plan, released late in the 1999 Legislative Session, erodes the “polluter pays” principle, weakens the chemical industry’s contribution to Superfund and leaves New Yorkers waiting up to 21 years before a toxic dump is cleaned up.”
Kirsten Swanson, President of the Student Association of the State University (SASU), called upon the Governor and State Legislature to reinvest in higher education. “Since the early 1990’s, SUNY has seen a decrease in the amount of support it receives from the state. This has resulted in sharp increases in tuition, decreases in the number of full-time professors, and decreased enrollment in opportunity programs. In addition, students have seen a decrease in the amount of grant aid available, creating a greater dependence on federal student loans, a trend that is increasing student debt burdens at an alarming rate. Cuts to higher education must stop.”
“Job creation is essential both to the overall well-being of our state’s economy and to our efforts to move welfare participants into unsubsidized employment. We need to continue to invest in job creation programs that will provide welfare participants with essential job skills. We also need to hold corporations accountable for delivering living wage jobs in exchange for the billions of dollars the state is investing in various corporate tax credits, subsidies, and grants in the name of economic development. We require poor individuals applying for welfare to provide full financial disclosure. It is time to require such disclosure for corporate welfare as well,” stated Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS.