Hawkins Says He Can Win As Only Progressive in Three-Way Race for Governor
Cuomo's Start-Up NY creates fewer jobs and costs more than
a public jobs program, says Green candidate
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, traveled to Rochester and Buffalo today to deliver the message that as the only progressive running against two economic conservatives, he can win the three way race.
Hawkins, who is the only upstate resident running for Governor, also criticized Cuomo's Start-Up NY as a favor to the very wealthy that shifts the tax burden on to tax-paying businesses and workers.
“The rest of us who pay our taxes will pay for this corporate welfare through higher taxes and cuts to our schools and public services,” said Hawkins, a Teamster who unload trucks for a living for UPS in Syracuse.
Hawkins said the Working Families Party nomination of Andrew Cuomo flat week left his Green candidacy as the sole option for progressive voters.
"Cuomo's flip-flopping on positions before he got the WFP nomination and then walking back those promises the day after he got the nomination shows that he lacks a moral compass. He can't be trusted. There is nothing progressive about his maneuvering. His only compass is what he thinks positions him best to run for President," Hawkins said.
Hawkins says he will be facing conservative candidates in Democrat Cuomo and Republican Rob Astorino who are beholden to the economic interests of their wealth financial backers. "Cuomo and Astorino are trying to outbid each other on how much they will cut taxes and spending. What they really mean is tax cuts for the 1% and cuts to schools and public services for the 99%," Hawkins said.
"In a three-way race, I think that a candidate who wants a $15-an-hour minimum wage, health care for all, a Green New Deal to provide full employment while acting on climate change, and who supports progressive taxes to adequately fund our schools and local governments will have the most support among the voters," stated Hawkins. Hawkins is the only candidate who supports a ban on hydrofracking for natural gas.
Hawkins said he recruited NYC education activist and socialist Brian Jones as his running mate in order to focus attention on schools. Hawkins and Jones oppose high-stakes testing of students, teachers, and schools that, they say, is intended to fail schools in disadvantaged communities and privatize them into union-free, unregulated charter schools. They call for fully-funded public schools, with common standards and assessment testing designed by educators, not private contractors. They also call for affirmative measures to reduce racial and socio-economic segregation, which is the most extreme in New York of any state in the nation.
Cuomo's Start-Up NY called a “Redistribution Program for the Rich”
Hawkins blasted Cuomo's Start-Up NY program. “Cuomo's tax-free zones are a redistribution program for the rich. It takes from tax-paying businesses and workers and gives to a select group of tax-exempted companies. Decades of this kind of corporate welfare – Enterprise Zones, Empowerment Zones, Empire Zones – has not produced new jobs. In fact, a study done for Cuomo's first tax reform commission showed that $10 billion in state corporate welfare over nine years corresponded to the elimination of 175,000 jobs,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins' alternative to tax breaks for corporations is a public jobs program. “Taxpayers would get far more jobs and economic development for the same cost through direct public employment in public services and through public investment in the repair and improvement of housing, transportation and energy infrastructure,” Hawkins said.
Citing a recent public jobs study, Hawkins said that for the same cost, roughly $1 billion a year, New York could employ 22,000 people directly in public services at $15 an hour with health insurance, with another 10,000 jobs created indirectly by the economic stimulus of formerly unemployed people now earning and spending pay checks. He added that the net cost to government would be substantially less after the cost the public assistance to these formerly unemployed workers and the taxes they pay are deducted from the gross cost.
“No one knows what Cuomo's Start-Up NY will cost us. Although Cuomo promoted Start-Up NY as a no-cost program, we already have $323 million in the state budget to promote and administer the program. We don't have cost estimates for tax breaks wasted on business that would have started anyway, for the shift of market share from tax-paying to tax-exempt businesses, or for the tax loss from tax-paying properties purchased by the tax-exempt universities and businesses for the tax-free zones. It's going to be like Pataki's Empire Zones. The costs will escalate far beyond what was advertised,” Hawkins said.
Pay for State Mandates with Revenue Sharing
"If state government was serious about revitalizing upstate cities, it would pay for its unfunded mandates by restoring revenue sharing. Revenue sharing has been steadily reduced over the course of the Cuomo-Pataki-Cuomo era from 8 percent of state revenues to less than 1 percent today. That is why our communities have had to cut schools and services and hike to local property and sales taxes,” Hawkin said.
Between its enactment in 1979 and 2011, Section 54 of the state Finance Law required the state to share 8 percent of its revenues with local governments. State budgets began to include “notwithstanding” clauses to get around that law, starting in the 1980s under Governor Mario Cuomo. Over the years, the percentage of state revenues shared was progressively reduced until Governor Andrew Cuomo repealed the revenue sharing law as part of his first state budget in 2011.
“The five-year plan in Cuomo's current budget keeps revenue sharing with local governments flat at a time when scores of local governments and school districts are headed for insolvency and a takeover by state control boards,” Hawkins noted.
Hawkins also would provide full funding to local schools. State funding of education has dropped to its lowest level as a percentage of the state budget in 65 years. Statewide the cumulative shortfall from what is required under 2007 Foundation Aid Formula is nearly $10 billion.
Rebuild Cities by Investing in Neighborhoods and Infrastructure, Not Corporate Tax Giveaways
“The theory behind corporate welfare tax programs like Start-Up NY – a theory shared by Democratic and Republican administrations alike since the 1980s – is that by giving the rich more money, they will invest, create good jobs, and the benefits will trickle down. New York and the United States have been practicing trickle down economics for more than three decades. The result has been a radical redistribution of wealth and income from working people to the very rich. The incomes and living standards of the working and middle classes have declined under this economic policy. In New York, inequality is the most extreme of any state, with the share of income going to the wealthiest 1 percent more than tripling from 10 percent in 1980 to 30-35 percent in the years since 2007,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins has long advocated allowing cities to enact a progressive income tax (such as NYC and Yonkers do) rather than relying solely on the regressive property and sales taxes to fund needed services. Many individuals working in cities do not live there, commuting in from nearby suburbs where they pay the bulk of their local taxes. Yet the cities must pay to provide roads, water, sewers, sanitation, and fire and police protection for their out-of-city residents.
“Progressive taxes and revitalizing the public sector will help stabilize the economy and public services. But if we really want to reduce extreme income inequality, we have to address it where it is generated, at the point of production of goods and services, where income is first distributed. That means we need to promote cooperatives in the private sector and public enterprise for goods and services that people ought to have by right, like education and health care, rather than only if they can afford it,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said community-owned enterprises anchor the wealth they create to the communities in which they are located through their democratic ownership structures. He listed five sectors he would prioritize for the development of democratically managed cooperative or public enterprises:
Business Development: Technical assistance and financing for worker and consumer cooperatives.
Banking: A State Bank for financing for public and private projects, with the principal and interest going to the state instead of Wall Street.
Energy: Convert investor-owned utilities, power stations, and fuel distributors into a publicly-owned, democratically-managed, locally-based system of public power and fuel companies that are federated at the state level for statewide planning for 100% clean energy by 2030.
Broadband: Create a public option for broadband systems (internet, TV, phone) to provide faster, lower cost service than the corporate telecoms do.
Health Care: A publicly funded universal health care program for all New Yorkers.
Several Third-Party Governors and Senators Have Won Since 2000
Hawkins said that the election of Jesse Ventura as Minnesota's Governor in 1999 shows that a third-party Gubernatorial candidate can win. He noted that since 2000, several third-party and independent candidates have also won statewide office for Governor and the U.S. Senator (Bernie Sanders) in Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
While acknowledging that he faces an uphill struggle, Hawkins listed a number of things that will impact on his viability: one, that he be included in a series of debates (a critical factor for Ventura); second, that the public employee unions whose members have been under assault by Cuomo provide Hawkins with support; and third, that the media give him equal coverage and status in the coverage and narrative of the campaign. If those three things occur, Hawkins says he can raise the funds needed to hire campaign organizers, buy TV and radio ads, and get his message out.
An average of early polls by Quinnipiac University and Siena College shows the governor garnering 38 percent support, Republican Rob Astorino 24 percent and an unnamed Working Families Party candidate 23 percent.
"I am a working Teamster with a name. I am the candidate that those 23 percent of voters are looking for. 23 percent means a million voters are mad as hell at Cuomo and ready for change. And this is before the real debate has even begun. I hope that the media won't limit their coverage to the horse race but will give voters consistent reporting on how the candidates differ on the issues. Let the voters decide," said Hawkins.