Media Release: Howie Hawkins Is Running for Governor to “Demand More”
For immediate release: April 12, 2018
Howie Hawkins of Syracuse announced today that he is running for Governor to demand more progressive reforms and system change. Hawkins finished 3rd in the 2014 Gubernatorial race. His 184,419 votes moved the Green Party up to the 4th line among ballot qualified parties.
"Progressives need to raise our expectations and demand more," Hawkins said. Topping his list of winnable reforms are single-payer health care, fully-funded public schools, a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure, and 100% clean renewable energy within 15 years.
Hawkins will campaign as an eco-socialist. "We are demanding more than piecemeal reforms. We are demanding system change. Capitalism's blind, ceaseless growth is devouring the environment. As long as workers are bound to a fixed wage and capitalists take the remaining value that labor creates as profit, the rich get richer and the rest of us struggle to make ends meet. We need more social ownership and democratic planning to provide a decent standard of living for all that is ecologically sustainable," Hawkins said.
Hawkins said it was time to "clean up the culture of corruption in Albany. Cuomo sells his office to the highest bidder, relentlessly extracting massive donations from the real estate industry, Wall Street, lawyers, and insurance firms. We need to replace pay-to-play with full public campaign financing."
While the Green Party has always opposed the construction of new fossil fuel projects such as the CPV power plant in Orange County, Hawkins said that the recent corruption conviction of Cuomo's former top aide required the state to rescind the permit for the plant.
Hawkins called for a Green New Deal as "the alternative to Cuomo's corrupt corporate welfare posing as economic development." By transitioning to 100% clean energy and investing in public infrastructure and services, the Green New Deal aims to achieve full employment with jobs in clean energy, mass transit, public housing, public broadband, education, and health care.
"Third terms are normally unproductive for Governors, as their ideas have already been tried and their most talented staff members have long since departed. This is especially true with Cuomo and his unusually high staff turnover rate. His performance in this year's budget was particularly weak, with the Senate Republicans blocking most of his limited progressive agenda. It is clear his prime interest is running for President," Hawkins noted.
Hawkins said his 5% of the vote in 2014 has forced Cuomo to compete for progressive voters by adopting a number of Green demands, including the ban of fracking, the $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and tuition-free public college.
"The historic role of third parties has been to force issues neglected by the major parties into public debate - issues like the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, the 8-hour day, Social Security, and ending segregation. The Green Party has increasingly been playing this role," said Hawkins.
The Green Party's 1998 ticket of drug policy reformers Al Lewis for Governor and Dr. Alice Green for Lt. Governor helped to launch the movement to end the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Jason West and Rebecca Rotzler, the Green mayor and deputy mayor of the village of New Paltz, performed the first same-sex marriages in New York in 2004, instigating the movement for marriage equality that is now New York law.
In 2010, Hawkins brought the demand for a ban of fracking from Greens in the Southern Tier, including Green town board members, into the gubernatorial campaign. The fracking ban demand convinced the many environmentalists to support a ban rather than their positions at that time of promoting fracked gas as the "bridge fuel" to renewable energy or calling for a moratorium while fracking was studied. After Hawkins ran on the ban again in 2018, Cuomo adopted the ban two months after the election.
Hawkins added that his campaign will help Greens win elections, not just win reforms. "By retaining the ballot line, we can elect more Greens to local office. Winning local elections is the foundation for electing state and congressional Greens in the future. We need to elect Greens because even when the major parties adopt our reforms in name, they too often water them down," Hawkins said.
As examples, Hawkins said that Cuomo's implementation of $15 minimum wage is too slow and incomplete upstate, while his Excelsior Scholarship Program falls far short of universal tuition-free public higher education.
Hawkins, a recently retired Teamster, will ask for the Green Party nomination at its state convention in Albany on May 19. The Green Party is committed to ecology, grassroots democracy, non-violence, and social and economic justice.
Key Planks in the Hawkins Green Platform
Quality Education for All
Hawkins blasted Cuomo for refusing to fully fund the Foundation Aid for schools and for fighting in court against two lawsuits seeking an equitable and adequate state school aid formula.
"But full funding is not nearly enough," Hawkins added. "We must desegregate our schools by race and class and provide every student access to a gifted-quality education."
"High-stakes testing and charter schools have become the substitute for desegregating schools by race and class, which is the only education reform that has radically closed achievement gaps and improved the education of all students," Hawkins said.
New York has the most segregated schools in the nation. Two-thirds of black students attend schools that are over 90% minority, according the "Brown at 60" report of the UCLA Civil Right Project.
"Cuomo's test-punish-privatize-and-segregate policy is using high-stakes testing to label students, teachers, and schools in high-poverty districts as failing. That label is then used to close public schools and open up private charter schools." Hawkins said.
"It is time to just end high-stakes testing. It dumbs down the curriculum. It punishes students, teachers, and schools in high-poverty districts simply because the students live in segregated poverty," Hawkins continued.
Single-Payer Health Care
Hawkins said single-payer health care is a big reform that is now close to adoption. The New York Health Act proposes to cover all New Yorkers for all medically necessary services at lower cost through a Medicare-style single public payer. It is about to pass the state Assembly for the fourth consecutive year and is reported to be one vote short of a majority in the state Senate.
Governor Cuomo said last September, he thought single-payer was a "good idea." But he has done nothing to promote it in this legislative session. Hawkins said his campaign will pressure Cuomo to act on this legislation.
100% Clean Energy
Hawkins said he will give voice to the next demand of the grassroots movement that fought for the ban on fracking, which is a ban on all new fossil fuel infrastructure in the state.
He said Cuomo's energy plan is centered around imported fracked-gas, which requires new power plants and associated pipelines, compressor stations, and gas storage facilities. He said Cuomo's plan will sabotage any hope for clean energy in time to slow global warming because it locks the New York energy system into infrastructure from which investors expect to see returns for 30 to 40 years.
Hawkins called for passage of pending legislation requiring the state to plan a transition to 100% clean energy in 15 years.
To enable effective planning for 100% clean energy, Hawkins called for energy democracy through a public energy system, including municipal power, community choice aggregation, and 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030. He would transform the New York Power Authority (NYPA) into a federation of locally-elected public power boards that own and operate power generation, transmission, and distribution.
In addition to a massive transition to renewable energy, the Green New Deal would invest in other public infrastructure, including mass transit, public housing, and a pubic broadband utility, as well as public services, including education, health care, and environmental protection.
The Regional Plan Association has estimated that over $100 billion in investments need to be made by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to repair and upgrade tracks, stations, signals, and cars. Expanding transit services to underserved areas in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, and upstate will cost more. The New York Housing Authority needs to invest $25 billion to fix problems in its 326 housing projects. Public housing upstate needs help as well. The state Comptroller's Office has identified the need for tens of billions of dollars of investments to maintain and upgrade the state's road, water, and sewage infrastructure.
"Public utilities and services are the pubic avenues for private commerce," Hawkins said. "Revitalizing the public sector will do much more for the economy and the business climate across the board than tax breaks and subsidies for special interests."
To help finance infrastructure, Hawkins called for a state bank like North Dakota has, which provides low-cost loans for infrastructure projects that save taxpayers 50% over financing through Wall Street banks. The public bank would also make more affordable loans to small businesses, farmers, government entities, students, and home buyers. To begin to reverse New York's most unequal distribution of wealth and income in the nation, Hawkins said the public bank should have an entrepreneurial division to develop worker cooperatives in which profits are distributed more equitably according to labor contribution, not capital ownership.
Hawkins called for progressive tax reforms and increased state revenue sharing with local governments to pay for the Green New Deal as well as fully fund state and local public services and enable local governments to reduce high and regressive property taxes.
He called for ending the rebate of the Stock Transfer Tax, which generated $14 billion in revenue in 2017.
He called for multi-millionaires' tax that would institute progressively graduated brackets as income rises from a few millions to tens of millions. Hawkins wants to close the carried-interest loophole that hedge fund managers, private equity investors, venture capitalists, and real estate investors use to be taxed at the lower capital gains rate instead of the ordinary income rate. Those two reforms would generate about $6 billion in new revenue, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
He also called for cutting the bottom bracket for low-income workers from 4% to 2%, which was the bottom bracket in the 1970s.
Other reforms Hawkins is calling for include a windfall tax on pharmaceutical companies' opioid wealth, a surtax on high-dollar pass-through income from LLCs and other pass-through vehicles, a clawback of the new federal tax cuts if not used to increase workers' pay, home rule for local income taxes, and tax credit "circuit breakers" to protect low-to-moderate income tenants and homeowners from unaffordable rents and property taxes.
Hawkins said the whole package of tax reforms he is advocating will generate about $30 million in additional revenue for the state while providing tax relief to low- and middle-income people.
About Howie Hawkins
Howie Hawkins has been an organizer in movements for peace, justice, labor, the environment, and independent working-class politics since 1967 when he got active in "The Movement" as a teenager in the San Francisco Bay Area.
When his draft number was called in 1972, Hawkins enlisted in the Marine Corps while continuing to organize against the Vietnam War. In the 70s and 80s, he was a leader in the anti-apartheid divestment movement to end US corporate investment in the system of racist labor exploitation in South Africa.
After attending Dartmouth College, Howie worked in construction in New England in the 1970s and 1980s and helped organize a worker cooperative that specialized in energy efficiency and solar and wind installations. He was a co-founder of the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance in 1976 and the Green Party in the US in 1984.
Howie moved to Syracuse in 1991 to develop cooperatives for CommonWorks, a federation of cooperatives that promoted cooperative ownership, democratic control, and ecological sustainability in the local economy.
From 2001 through 2017, he worked as a Teamster unloading trucks at UPS. Now retired, he remains a supporter of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, US Labor Against the War, the Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare, and the Labor Notes network.
Howie has been a Green Party candidate for city council, mayor, and auditor in Syracuse. His vote has grown from 3% for at-large councilor in 1993 to 48% for a district council seat in 2011. In 2015, he received 35% of the citywide vote for city auditor.