(Manhattan)—Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said today that the recent statement by Governor Cuomo that the state's health study on fracking will be completed by the end of the year means that it is highly likely that he will give a green light to fracking in New York—but won’t say so before election day.
Hawkins said that a top priority if he is elected Governor will be address the problems of poverty and income inequality. New York has the worst income inequality in the country. Child poverty is 30% in NYC and in excess of 50% in several upstate cities, including Buffalo, Syracuse and Schenectady.
Hawkins spoke at a campaign rally in New York City headlined by consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Nader spoke in favor of raising the minimum wage and the need for the State to hold on to, rather than rebate, the stock transfer tax. New York collects about $14 billion a year through a tiny tax on each stock transaction but in recent decades has rebated the tax to Wall Street traders. Nader also addressed the Ebola issue.
Also speaking was Nader's favorite baker, Matt Funiciello, the Green Congressional candidate in District 21 (North Country); Lt. Governor candidate and educator Brian Jones; Attorney General candidate Ramon Jimenez; and Theresa Portelli, State Comptroller candidate.
Hawkins' Green New Deal would ban fracking, shut down nuclear plants including Indian Point and instead build 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030. This would help create 4.5 million new jobs while cutting electric rates by half compared to continued reliance on fossil fuels.
"Last month 400,000 of us marched to demand action on climate change. Four years ago I called for a ban on fracking because of its negative impact on the environment and because it is not a solution to global climate change,” said Hawkins.
“I applaud the citizen protests that have kept Cuomo from approving fracking wells over the last four years. And though Cuomo claims to be undecided on the issue, his administration has been pushing ahead with the infrastructure to support fracking.
“Once the election is over, I expect Cuomo will finally give the green light to at least some fracking, betting that the furor will die down before his next election," said Hawkins.
Cuomo previously floated a trial balloon to allow individual communities to decide for themselves if they wanted to allow fracking.
At the campaign rally as, at this week's gubernatorial debate, Hawkins called for a $15 an hour minimum wage and to fund essential state services by increasing taxes on the rich while cutting taxes for 95% of New Yorkers. He stressed that it was also vitally important to end poverty in New York State, which has contributed to record levels of hunger and homelessness, the latter particularly in New York City.
"For too long our state's fiscal policies have focused on trickle down economic policies that benefit the 1%— the result has been a radical redistribution of wealth to the very rich. It is time for a bottom up approach. We should guarantee a living wage public job to anyone who can't find a job,” said Hawkins. “For those unable to work or who are home caregivers, we need a much stronger safety net, including raising welfare benefits above the poverty level. We also need free universal childcare and school meals, and to invest and expand quality public housing.”
Hawkins said he would end the austerity budgets that Cuomo has championed at both the state level and locally with his property tax cap. Between 2010 and 2012, cuts to human services by New York State totaled approximately $1 billion. This has translated into a loss of jobs and services, and has cut holes in the safety-net that New York has worked so hard to build. Now that the state budget has begun to stabilize and there is a $4 billion surplus, it is time to reinvest in services to millions of vulnerable and at-risk New Yorkers. Yet Cuomo recently directed state agencies to freeze spending in next year's budget.
Hawkins also supports providing health care to all New Yorkers through a single payer system, which would reduce overall health care spending by tens of billions annually. Hawkins said a universal health care system would focus on keeping everyone healthy rather than rationing health care to maximize profits, especially for drug companies and insurance firms. It would also lower property taxes by eliminating the payments made by the city and counties for Medicaid.
Both Hawkins and Nader said that the profit focus of drug companies is a major reason why they haven't worked on finding ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola.
"The public should demand that Big Pharma disgorge some of their profits, stop charging Americans the highest prices in the world, and create a fund to pay for research on drugs that can curb the spread of infectious diseases," said Nader.
"A robust public health infrastructure would have prioritized the development of an Ebola vaccine so we would not be trying to play catch up so late in the game," added Hawkins.