For Immediate Release: January 2, 2018
Susan Zimet, Hunger Action Network of New York State (C) 845-527-5309
Ron Deutsch, Fiscal Policy Institute (C) 518-469-6769 (O) 518-786-3156 x7160
THE 29th PEOPLE’S “RESISTANCE” STATE OF THE STATE
The Empire State Strikes Back
(Albany, N.Y.) The 29th Annual People’s State of the State rally took place at the State Street entrance to the State Capitol today. Organizations from across New York State joined together in the freezing cold for what has become the long standing “unofficial” kick off of the legislative session in Albany. The groups focused on the crisis facing many struggling New Yorkers that will be made worse as a result of the recently passed federal tax plan. They also noted that the President and Congress are now shifting their focus to massive budget cuts and the need for New York State’s elected officials to fight back and protect the neediest amongst us is more important than ever.
New York State, and its elected officials, need to stand up and support programs and legislation that help to lift our fellow New Yorker’s out of poverty. New York needs to lead the way in showing the nation that we value those in need and will not turn our back on them despite what the federal government may do. The groups said they will be working to protect against any federal cuts to programs and will be holding members of New York’s Congressional delegation accountable.
The groups strongly support movement on a variety of issues including the Homeless MOU, Hunger – HPNAP, single payer health care, recapturing part of the federal tax windfall to wealthy New Yorkers, job creation, support for a quality public education, wage theft, protecting our seniors and mitigating the impact of climate change on the poor.
The groups pointed out that New York sends some $48 billion more in revenue to the federal government then it receives back in services each year. That money needs to stay in New York and fund the programs that will help the most vulnerable.
“We implore the Governor and the Legislature to remember those they are sent to serve – the people. The upcoming legislative session will have to deal with incredible need in the face of a $4.5 billion budget gap. The 2.7 million food insecure New Yorkers, the 1.2 million who lack health insurance, the 90,000 who are homeless, the million children who live in poverty – these are real people suffering intolerable hardships. We cannot forget their struggles. New York prides itself on being called the Empire State, yet we lead the nation in income inequality. Nearly one-third of New Yorker’s with a disability live in poverty. NYC ranks first in the nation in homelessness. This is intolerable and does not reflect the heart of New Yorkers. Against this backdrop, we need our Governor and State leaders to protect those in need from harmful federal cuts,” stated Susan Zimet, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS. “Maybe we should rethink our financial commitment to the federal government. Like Trump says – America over pays the United Nations for the services- New York can say the same thing to DC. Let’s keep our money here and take care of our fellow New Yorkers!”
“The recently passed federal tax bill is a one-two punch for working families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities in New York. Now that Congress has added over a $1.5 trillion to the national deficit by giving huge tax cuts to corporations they are calling for massive spending cuts to balance the budget. This is nothing more than thinly-veiled effort to gut programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and disability insurance that help struggling New Yorkers meet their basic needs. These cuts will put even more pressure on our state budget, which is already stretched thin and require New York to make up for lost federal funding,” said Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute. “Some of our members of Congress failed struggling working families when they voted for the GOP tax bill, but they will have a second chance. They should commit now to standing against budget cuts that would further hurt our state’s poorest residents by taking away health coverage, food assistance, housing, and more from New York families.”
“If you actually do the math, the recently passed tax bill, for the most part, penalized the poor, the middle class and upper middle class. It also penalized home owners and small and even medium sized businesses by taking away their deductions. This was all done to give a big tax cut to the very rich while laying the ground work to cut the social safety net and increase health premiums. We have a message for Congress and the President: You do not have our consent to do any more damage. You must now clean up the mess you just created and strengthen, not cut, the programs on which we all depend,” said the Reverend Peter Cook, Executive Director, New York State Council of Churches.
Dennis Hanratty, Executive Director of Mount Vernon United Tenants (MVUT) stated, “As we struggle through this frigid Arctic cold spell, let us think of those poor souls who are homeless. Just imagine being outside through the night in weather like this! That’s something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And what about those living in sub-standard housing, without adequate heat and hot water, with holes in the window panes, the doors, the walls, etc. allowing the bitter cold to seep into their apartments/rooms. Unfortunately, this is the fate of far, far too many low-income New Yorkers. We need a government in New York State that truly cares for and values the lives of ALL New Yorkers!”
Angela Warner, Director of Food Pantry and Social Justice Ministries, Church of St Vincent De Paul stated, “Every day in New York State approximately three million food insecure residents face empty refrigerators, forgo a meal so their children have something to eat, make difficult choices to pay the heating bill, buy medicine or purchase groceries. Food Pantries, soup kitchen and other community organizations consistently step up to fill the gap. St Vincent De Paul Food Panty located in the City of Albany has experienced a 13% increase in our service levels with nearly 40% of the individuals fed being children.”
“In 2018, New York’s economy will still be the most unequal in the nation. It’s not working for regular New Yorkers, and it’s not something politicians can be proud of. We can’t have broad prosperity if a small set of billionaires and multimillionaires keep taking everything and leave nothing for regular working people,” stated Michael Kink, Executive Director, Strong Economy for All Coalition. “If Governor Cuomo and lawmakers want to make a difference, they need to be bold. It’s time to crack down on big companies that don’t create jobs or raise wages — we should take away their corporate welfare and tax subsidies. It’s time to tax the heirs and the heiresses of the billionaires who rigged the system in Washington. It’s time to invest in our people: in jobs, infrastructure, healthcare and education that will raise up families and communities. It’s time to work for the many, not the few.’
Mark Emanatian of the Capital District Area Labor Federation (CDALF) said, ”Working people and their unions are demanding that the war on working people stop. We need good jobs! We need our social safety net restored! We need our people taken care of! In 2018, we will mobilize our members to make sure this happens.”
“For far too long New York has ranked the worst when it comes to education equity. Black, brown and low-income students often attend schools that are overcrowded and underfunded. The extreme inequality in New York’s public schools has fueled the widening opportunity gap. It’s time for New York to reverse this course of penny pinching state aid to schools. We need the Governor to finally commit to fully funding our public schools,” said Jasmine Gripper, Legislative Director for the Alliance for Quality Education. “As one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country we can put children first by expanding the state’s revenue options. A small tax increase on the 1% could go a long way to providing a high-quality education for all children in the state.”
“Once again the highest percentage of the millions of Americans hurt by extreme weather and climate change in 2017 were low-income. Five years after Hurricane Sandy thousands of New Yorkers are still struggling to put their lives back together. We need to accelerate state action on climate change while ensuring that the needs of low-income residents are prioritized. A first step is for the Governor to stop building new plants to burn fracked gas in Sheridan Hollow and instead commit to a clean energy future for this and other low-income neighborhoods,” said Mark Dunlea, People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE).
“Given all the turmoil around health care in Congress and from within the Trump administration, it is incumbent on New York’s leaders to calm the waters here at home by keeping our Affordable Care Act marketplace, Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and Essential Plans whole,” said Mark Hannay, Director of Metro New York Health Care for All. “There’s a long bipartisan history of support for these programs here in New York, so we have a strong platform to stand on and build upon. Millions of New Yorkers and their families are counting on Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to protect our health care.”
“Amidst unprecedented attacks on the poor and working class, it is imperative that New York State leadership takes on the task of ending poverty in our state. This year is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and a new Poor People’s Campaign, led by the most marginalized and dispossessed of society, is organizing and growing to carry on his work. New York elected leaders should pay close attention,” said Joe Paparone, lead organizer, Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS.
“The goal of economic justice for all requires us to address the many issues we are discussing in the People’s State of the State message including hunger, housing, homelessness, healthcare, pay equity, living wages, quality public education, human and civil rights, and more, and the interconnectedness between them,” said Abby Nash, Co-Chair, Reform Jewish Voices of NYS, (RJV). “Our faith teachings require us not only to give to the poor, but to advocate on their behalf. We are here today–and throughout the year–to speak up, judge righteously, and champion the poor and the needy”.
“Across New York State we’re spending more money on caging people in jail than we are on preventing and healing harms in their community. Our government’s massive investment in incarceration has financial and human costs and both of those costs are disproportionately borne by black and brown families. We’re not tackling the root causes of poverty and inequality, but we’re hiding the consequences of poverty and inequality in the shadows cast by our jails and prisons. It’s long past time that we shed light into those shadows and expose the reality of the choices our government continues to make. It’s long past time when we demand they make another choice: overhaul our broken bail, speedy trial, and discovery laws so we can stop wasting money on cages for 25,000 of our brothers and sisters, and invest that money, instead, in our communities. It’s long past time to #FREENewYork,” stated Shanequa Charles, JustLeadershipUSA Fellow and #FREENewYork Campaign Leader.
Groups sponsoring the event include Hunger Action Network of NYS, Faith and Hunger Network, Fiscal Policy Institute, NYS Council of Churches, NYS Labor-Religion Coalition, Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, Campaign for New York Health, Alliance for Quality Education, NYS Episcopal Public Policy Network, Strong Economy for All Coalition, Sisters of St. Joseph, St Vincent De Paul Social Justice, Mt Vernon United Tenants, NY Statewide Senior Action Council, JustleadershipUSA, Capital District Area Labor Federation, M