Building a Sustainable Long Island
By Howie Hawkins
High property taxes are probably the most common complaint from Long Island residents.
Hurricane Sandy showed how vulnerable the Island is to climate change and severe weather.
Dealing with clean water and sewage is a critical challenge.
Many parents and teachers are unhappy with the Common Core-aligned high-stakes testing regime imposed on local schools.
My gubernatorial campaign provides solutions to these and other problems.
My revenue plan would generate an additional $30 billion annually in state revenues that would be used to fund state mandates on local government, lower property taxes, and invest in infrastructure upgrades.
By going back to the more progressive state income tax that existed in the 1970s, 95% of all New Yorkers would see a tax cut – and revenues would increase by $8 billion.
We should stop rebating to Wall Street speculators the minuscule sales tax on stock trading that New York began collecting a century ago. This would add up to $16 billion in annual revenue.
We should stop wasting the $7 billion a year spent on "economic development". These corporate subsidies and tax breaks fail to create jobs. They primarily reward big campaign contributors.
The new revenues would help restore the 1970s level of revenue sharing with local governments –eights times higher than what the state now provides. This revenues would enable local governments to lower local taxes, pay for state mandates, and fund municipal services.
I would lower health care costs – and property taxes for Medicaid – through a single-payer health care system. Like Medicare, one program pays all the bills, eliminating tens of billions of dollars wasted on bureaucratic paperwork and profits of health insurance companies. A majority in the State Assembly and a third of the Senate are sponsoring this proposal. The state's own study found a single payer system – with no premiums, deductibles, or co-pays – would reduce health care costs by $28 billion annually by 2019.
We need stronger oversight of development on Long Island to avoid building in areas subject to storm surges and flooding. We need to restore natural barriers to erosion and flooding, including wetlands.
Climate change must be addressed. We have at best 15 years to avert catastrophic global warming. I would convert to 100% clean energy by 2030. A study done by Stanford and Cornell professors shows this is economically feasible with existing technology, and would create 4.5 million jobs and cut electric rates in half. The plan includes wind farms offshore from Long Island instead of the proposed liquified natural gas export facility.
The state needs to provide more leadership and funding to protect Long Island's water supplies. Infrastructure that is some 50 years old is falling apart, including sewage and storm water systems. Sewers are a particularly big issue in Suffolk County where smart growth initiatives are often thwarted by the lack of sewer infrastructure. Drinking water is being taken out faster than the aquifer can replenish, allowing salt water to flow in. Too much chemical intrusion is polluting the local drinking water and marshlands, especially nitrogen, from industrial polluters, inadequate sewage infrastructure, and fertilizers and pesticides from farms and lawns.
I would repeal the 2% cap on local governments that Cuomo imposed. The tax cap means local governments cannot even afford to take no-interest loans from the federal government to upgrade water and sewer systems. The state should also take action to prohibit and restrict the use of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals that threaten the local groundwater. DEC should update the LI Pesticide Use Management Plan. I want stronger state oversight and funding of sewage treatment plants, including requirement that the plants remove nitrogen and pharmaceuticals.
Parents on Long Island have been in the forefront of opposing Common Core and high stakes testing. I am proud to be endorsed by the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association. Re-electing Andrew Cuomo will mean four more years of scapegoating teachers, underfunding public schools, cutting staff and programs, and proliferating privately-managed charter schools.
My Lt. Governor running mate, Brian Jones, taught in the New York City public schools for nine years. We want to return schools to the teachers, parents and school boards and allow them to develop curricula and assessments. The state should provide full and equitable funding for all schools so class sizes can be reduced and vital programs can be restored.
New York faces many challenges. But common sense solutions are at hand. We can end New York's shameful status as the state with the highest income inequality. We can create an economically and environmentally sustainable and shared prosperity. Please visit www.howiehawkins.org for more information on our vision for New York.