Hawkins called for more progressive state taxes and revenue sharing to pay for unfunded mandates on local governments. He said his progressive tax reforms would also fund “A Green New Deal for New York” featuring full employment, living wages, single-payer health care, fully-funded public schools, affordable housing and mass transit, and a 100 percent clean energy system by 2030.
Hawkins Slams Cuomo Property Tax Rebate Plan
as “Fiscally Irresponsible” and “Presidential Politics”
Calls for Fracking Ban and 100% Clean Energy by 2030
Ithaca – Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for NY Governor, slammed Governor Cuomo's budget and property tax relief plan today as “fiscal irresponsibility” and “presidential politics.”
At an afternoon news conference in Ithaca, Hawkins called for more progressive state taxes and revenue sharing to pay for unfunded mandates on local governments. He said his progressive tax reforms would also fund “A Green New Deal for New York” featuring full employment, living wages, single-payer health care, fully-funded public schools, affordable housing and mass transit, and a 100 percent clean energy system by 2030.
Hawkins said he would ban fracking, establish a $15 minimum wage, and require labeling of GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) in food. He also called for an end to high-stakes testing and public campaign financing.
“Cuomo's budget is fiscally irresponsible. It pays for tax cuts for the rich by shortchanging state aid to schools and municipalities. It pays for $2 billion in tax cuts now by assuming $7 billion in spending cuts in future budgets,” Hawkins said.
“Cuomo is playing presidential politics with his property tax rebate charade. The average Tompkins County homeowner will get a measly $7.31 rebate check just before the election. The Ithaca City School District faces deep cuts because Cuomo is paying for rich folks' tax cuts by underfunding schools and municipal services. Cuomo is trying to buy our votes on the cheap this year so he can run for president next year saying he's a tax cutter. It is the rich who get the bulk of his tax breaks for banks, corporations, estates, and stock traders, not working people who are renters and homeowners,” said Hawkins, who is a working Teamster unloading trucks at night at UPS in Syracuse.
Progressive State Taxes and Revenue Sharing
Hawkins called for restoring the more progressive state tax and revenue sharing policies of the 1970s , which he said would yield over $30 billion in additional revenue while giving the majority of New Yorkers tax cuts.
“After 35 years of both major parties shifting of the tax burden from the rich and big corporations on to working people, from progressive state income taxes onto regressive local sales and property taxes, it is time for working people to get tax relief and for the rich to pay their fair share again,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins would eliminate $7 billion a year in corporate tax breaks and subsidies, which were minimal in the 1970s, and retain the revenues of the Stock Transfer Tax, which has has yielded between $12 billion and $16 billion in recent years due to the growth computerized high frequency trading. The tax has been 100 percent rebated to stock traders since 1981.
Hawkins would use the additional revenues in part to restore the 1979 standard of sharing 8 percent of state revenues with municipalities in order to pay for state mandates on local governments. Revenue sharing today is less than 1 percent of state revenues and projected to be flat in Cuomo's five-year financial plan.
“Cuomo's so-called tax relief plan is a one-size-fits-all mandate from Albany that upstate communities will pay for in cuts to our schools and services without getting real property tax relief. We need restore revenue sharing to pay for state mandates and let local communities decide for themselves how much to cut property taxes and how much to spend on schools and services. Every community is different. We know better than Albany what our own priorities should be. We need more home rule and an end to unfunded mandates from Albany,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said his tax reform and revenue sharing proposals would also pay for what he calls “A Green New Deal for New York,” an economic development program featuring public service and infrastructure jobs for the unemployed, a $15 minimum wage, single-payer health care for all, tuition-free public schools from pre-K through college, affordable housing and mass transit, and 100 percent clean energy by 2030.
Citing a peer-reviewed study by a group of scientists, engineers, and economists, Hawkins said that building the clean energy system over the next 15 years would create 4.5 million jobs, primarily in construction and manufacturing.
Hawkins Demands Assembly Votes on Fracking and Health Care
Hawkins called on the state Assembly to vote in this session for a ban on fracking and for single payer health care.
“Voters deserve to know before the election where their representatives and the Governor really stand on fracking. The Assembly should vote for the ban and force Cuomo to get off the fence, or Cuomo is going to turn to his presidential ambitions after the election, join the pro-fracking consensus of the national Democratic Party, and frack New York,” Hawkins said.
A near majority of Assembly members are co-sponsors of the single payer bill. “Assembly members are just posturing for voters if they don't follow through with an actual vote on single payer health care,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins also said he wanted to see the state legislature address the bills to label GMO foods and enact a system of full public campaign financing in this legislative session.
“The partial public campaign financing bills promoted by state Democratic leaders will do little to end the legalized bribery of private campaign financing because it just adds a little public money that is capped to the same old mountains of private money that remains unlimited. We need a system full public campaign financing like Arizona and Maine have where candidates run either completely on clean public money or stay completely with dirty private money. Then we will know who is beholden to who,” Hawkins said.
$15 Minimum Wage
Hawkins called for a state minimum wage of $15 an hour, indexed to inflation, and for home rule for municipalities to set local minimum wages that are higher than the state minimum.
“The $2 minimum wage demanded by the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is $15.44 in today's inflation-adjusted dollars,” Hawkins noted.
“On my first day as Governor,” Hawkins declared, “I would use the power that law already gives to the Governor to appoint a Minimum Wage Board to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. Cuomo has failed to convene such a board to provide a raise for tip workers, even though the minimum wage law he signed last year instructed him to do so.”
“We don't give Cuomo any credit for the minimum wage increase he signed into law last year,” Hawkins added. “It remains a sub-poverty wage of only $9 by 2016. It subsidizes employers for the difference between the federal and state minimum wages for teenaged workers, but only if they don't pay more than the minimum wage, which makes it a ceiling on wages.”
“Only Albany could come up such stupid law. It's the dumbest minimum wage law in the world,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins also faulted Cuomo on his poor performance on wage theft. Despite a two-year 15,000 case backlog in wage theft cases at the State Department of Labor, Cuomo failed to provide any increased funding for labor investigators in his budget.
Opt Out of High-Stakes Testing
Hawkins said that underfunding public schools was only part of what is wrong with Governor Cuomo's educational policies.
“High-stakes testing doesn't improve education. It just punishes disadvantaged students and communities for being poor. Cuomo's promotion of high-stakes testing is designed to fail the students, teachers, and schools of working class communities in order to privatize their schools into charters and replace unionized public school teachers with non-union scabs. That's what the hedge funders seeking to profit from public school privatization paid for with their $1 million dollars in campaign contributions to Cuomo,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said he would opt out of high-stakes testing, public funding of private charter schools, and curricula and standards developed by outside corporate contractors like Common Core.
“We need more teaching and less testing. Teachers in the schools should write the curricula and design tests for assessing students for educational purposes,” Hawkins said.
“Poverty concentrated by segregation and reinforced by underfunding of education are the root sources of low educational achievement. New York State has the greatest income inequality and the most segregated schools of any state in the nation. We have to redress poverty, segregation, and underfunding in order to improve educational outcomes in disadvantaged communities,” Hawkins said.