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Green Party candidates want clean elections, environment
From left, Green Party candidates Mark Dunlea, who is running for comptroller, and gubernatorial nominee Howie Hawkins talk to The Post-Star editorial board on Wednesday.
by Michael Goot
GLENS FALLS — Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins and comptroller candidate Mark Dunlea believe that current politicians have failed to clean up Albany.
“I think it’s rife with corruption,” Hawkins said Wednesday in an editorial board meeting with The Post-Star.
Hawkins supports public funding for elections, such as in Maine, where people can opt into a system and receive matching donations. Politicians like the system, he said.
“They don’t have to go around begging for money,” he said.
Hawkins, who is a political activist and the Green Party nominee in 2010 and 2014, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo campaigned on getting rid of corruption and, instead, government officials have been convicted in bid-rigging and pay-to-play schemes.
Hawkins said the Moreland Commission, which was disbanded in 2014, should be reopened.
“As soon as it started getting near Cuomo, it shut down,” he said of the commission to investigate public corruption.
Hawkins said he supports making legislators full time and severely limiting their outside income.
Dunlea said the state comptroller should have the authority to approve contracts. The Legislature stripped that oversight in the interest of streamlining some economic development projects.
Hawkins said he is worried about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, which says that the world must reduce carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2030 and become carbon neutral to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.
“We’re really on the edge of a real disaster,” Hawkins said. “We just hope New York can take the lead and set an example. It’s such an economic boom for the state.”
Hawkins is pitching a “Green New Deal” to transition as quickly as possible to a zero-carbon emission economy. Cuomo’s plan is not aggressive enough, he said.
Hawkins said the New York Off Fossil Fuels Act could create 5 million new construction jobs and the state could have 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
Hawkins said there would be accommodations for people who would lose their jobs because of the transition to clean energy.
Some drastic measures may be required, such as the state creating its own public power system, according to Hawkins.
“What we really need is like a World War II-scale globalization,” he said.
Hawkins supports a carbon tax. Right now, fracked gas is the least-expensive way to generate electricity. However, implementing a carbon tax would help make solar and wind power more cost-effective.
“We’re not paying for what the fossil fuels are doing in terms of health and terms of the climate,” he said.
Dunlea said it is difficult to get approval for any new large-scale solar or wind farm. He proposed a system where the state would provide financing and local governments would then seek bids to build the project. This would be preferable to a large developer coming into down and looking for a parcel of land that makes sense for them.
“Allow the local residents to make the determination,” he said.
Dunlea, who ran the Hunger Action Network anti-poverty organization for 28 years and served on the Poestenkill Town Board, said the state pension fund should completely divest itself of investments in fossil fuel companies. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has said he wants the state to stay in those investments so it has a seat at the table in trying to make sure they change their practices. Dunlea said he does not think that is effective.
About five years ago, he took on the effort to divest the state and New York City pension fund, according to Dunlea. He got New York City to divest but has not made progress on the state level.
“We felt it was morally wrong for the state to seek to invest in companies that can contribute to the destruction of the planet,” he said.
Dunlea said that if the state had divested a decade ago, the state pension fund would have an extra $22 billion. Fossil fuel companies are a bad investment, he said.
Hawkins said a single-payer health care system needs to be created for less money than currently.
The New York Health Act passed the Assembly four times, but has fallen one vote short in the Senate. He said he would sign the bill.
Hawkins proposes to raise taxes on the very rich and cut rates for the bottom brackets. He would also restore revenue sharing.
“We balance the state budget on the backs of local property taxpayers. Our property taxes in upstate New York are the highest in the country,” he said.
Dunlea said he does not like the top-down economic development initiatives because “you’re picking winners and losers.” Once the subsidies end, the counties can pack up and leave.
He also said there should be provisions to claw back tax breaks given to businesses if they do not create the number of jobs that were promised.
Hawkins said his goal is to invest in infrastructure such as roads, bridges and utilities.
“I’m talking about lowering the cost of business for everybody by providing good public services and infrastructure,” he said.
The state should appropriate the full amount of funding that was promised to schools as part of the settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, according to Hawkins.
More money should be going toward high-needs schools and less to high-income districts, he said.
“We have the most segregated schools in the country,” he said.
Another concern is algal blooms in the lake. Protecting water supplies needs to be a higher priority, according to Hawkins.
Both men were realistic about their electoral chances.
“I’m probably not winning the election, but if we can get the comptroller to agree to divest, then the campaign will have been successful,” Dunlea said.
Hawkins said the Green Party got 5 percent of the vote in 2014, which means it cannot be taken for granted.
“People appreciate that we’re bringing issues to the table that other people are ignoring,” he said.
Also running for governor are Republican Marc Molinaro, independent Stephanie Miner and Libertarian Larry Sharpe.