(NEW YORK STATE OF CHURCHES) Peter Cook, March 25, 2019
We are down to the wire on the state budget this week and there is a lot up in the air. The deadline is April 1. This is the moment where faith leaders and activists needs to flex their muscles in Albany to speak up for a justice agenda while visiting with and calling their elected officials. We canât do everything but there are several things we can do that get the state on a better path to give more attention to the poor and the disenfranchised. It is morally outrageous that we have child poverty rates over 50% in many parts of our state. Itâs not right that a few make more and more money, while everyone else falls farther behind in economically. What follows is a set of tools and analysis which we hope will be useful to you as you make your voice known at this critical time in the legislative calendar.
NEW YORK STATE
MARCH 25TH SCHEDULE
THE FINAL PUSH FOR A NEW HOPE BUDGET
Join us on March 25 in Albany to make our case: Here is the schedule:
For those coming from New York City who wish to ride the bus, contact firstname.lastname@example.org . There are also car-pools leaving from some Citizen Action Offices.
Â· 10:30am: Bus goers, Capital area attendees, and attendees who traveled by train, van or carpool meet-up @ McDonalds in concourse
Â· 10:30-10:45am: Charles explains to everyone why we are here, the agenda for the day and splits up new folks onto pre-existing teams.Â· Hand out 1 pagers/leave Materials & Lunch Vouchers
Â· 10:45-11:30am: Teams go through security and begin office drop-in visits to Assembly & Senate targets
Â· 11:30am: Teams head to outside the Senate Chambers near the LCA Pressroom for Press Conference
Â· 12:00pm Presser Outside Senate Lobby near LCA (Fair Elections, Revenue, Schools, Human Services) With legislators, activists and faith leaders.
- 12:30 – 1:30pm: office drop-ins to Assembly and Senate Targets Continue
- 1:30pm-2:00pm: Lunch Break
- 2:00-3:00pm: Off the Floor Meetings with Assembly & Senate. Groups should request off the floor meetings with the same legislators with whom they did office visits.
ACTION ON APRIL 2
SEPARATION OF CHILDREN ACCOUNTABILITY RESPONSE ACT
Micah Faith Table, The Interfaith Center of New York, The New Sanctuary Coalition, Union Theological Seminary, The New York State Council of Churches and other faith partners statewide are supporting the introduction in the NY State Assembly and Senate of the Separation of Children Accountability Response Act â the SCAR Act – by Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and Senator Brian Benjamin. This bill calls for greater transparency about the condition of children in their care by NYS foster care organizations that receive Federal to hold separated and unaccompanied immigrant children, requiring them to provide regular updates on the childrenâs condition to state and federal government. Click here for flyer about the event. Start time in the Albany will be 10.
Contact Jonathan Soto at Jsoto@uts.columbia.edu if you would like to take the bus from New York City.
Click here for a flyer and more details.
MARCH 26, CLIMATE AND COMMUNITY PROTECTION ACT CALL IN
Please schedule an email & social posts to your members for March 26 for a statewide call-in day to Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins!
– Call tool to direct people to: nyrenews.org/callsenateleader
– Social toolkit to grab sample tweets, emails, etc: 3/26 Call In Day Toolkit
You can also make a call to your State Senator and urge them to pass the CCPA. Here’s a sample script:
“Hi, I’m a constituent and I’m calling to urge the Senator to fight for the Climate and Community Protection Act â which already has a majority of sponsors in the Senate. Will the Senator tell Senate leadership to schedule a vote on the bill ASAP?”
The CCPA has a majority of Senators already signed on â we can’t let this moment slip by. It’s time to get a vote on the calendar.
Let’s pass the most ambitious climate justice legislation in the nation!
Click here to see the flyer for the Moral March on Housing and a Call for Universal Rent Control. We will be hosted by the Abyssian Baptist Church in Harlem.
NEW YORK STATE COUNCIL OF CHURCHESâ POLITICAL ANALYSIS
The New York State Council of Churches has been pushing hard for an ultra-millionaireâs tax, a real estate transfer tax, a Piedâ d Terre tax and the collection of a Carried Interest Fairness fee. The Governor, the Senate and the Assembly have included the Carried Interest Fairness Fee in their budgets but itâs worth noting that this is not real money until New Jersey and Connecticut, at least, approve the fee. The Pied dâ Terre tax is in both the Senate and Assembly One House bills and the Governor has now signaled his willingness to include it in the final budget. The Ultra Millionaire tax, which would impose an additional Â½ percent tax on people earning over 5 million, 10 million, and 100 million is in the Assembly budget. The most additional tax anyone would pay is 1 Â½ percent more for people making over 100 million. The Governor and the Senate have not included the ultra-millionaireâs tax in their budgets. In addition, the real estate transfer tax is included in the Assembly and the Senate budgets. We want all four taxes to appear in the final budget but the Senate and the Governor are dug in and seem unwilling to make the political lift. We are very worried the ultra-millionaires tax will not survive. Here is a humorous/serious video about the need for an ultra-millionaire tax featuring billionaire Abigail Disney.
The reason we need to have all four taxes is to pay for the badly needed proposed increases in education funding which are in both the Senate and Assembly one house bills and which are considerably more than what the Governor included in his budget. The Governor is raising strong objections with both the Assembly and the Senate for increasing money for education by saying we canât afford it. Of course, he is correct â we canât afford the increase in education funding, if we donât impose all four taxes. But this is the heart of the struggleâyou canât increase spending unless you are willing to ask for more revenue.
Even if all four taxes are approved, social services, health care, and aid to municipalities do not see any appreciable over all increase. Some programs in some budgets get a little more while other programs funded in the past are cut or dropped off the table. Obviously, the problem is mitigated somewhat with more tax revenue but the story, over all, is not a good one. The fight in the capital this week is to stop any cuts and increase funding for a few things like cost of living wage adjustment for direct service professionals and human service employees who directly care for our most vulnerable, sick and people living with disabilities. We also need to see an increase some programs like the Home Stability Support program which has 100 million in the Assembly but only 20 million in the Senate. HSS is not included in the Governorâs budget. We must retain some of the improvement in aid to municipalities which is a better economic investment than business tax credits.
An additional constraint, which makes it hard to see increases in most programs, is the imposition of a 2% spending cap which, when imposed as it has been since, 2011, leaves health care, human services and education competing over one piece of âpizzaâ. If some get more, then others get less. We need to have more pieces of pizza to be shared which means more revenue. This week, we must fight very hard to hold off the cuts and see some funding increases. We should also remind lawmakers that the 2% cap imposes an unnecessary austerity and must be lifted.
THREE OTHER POLICIES WITH A BETTER THAN EVEN CHANCE OF BEING IN THE BUDGET
There are three other things on the table which have the best chance of being included in the budget.
Public Financing of Elections: Small Donor Matching
It is so critical that we approve a small donor matching program for our state elections âNOW. We need a 6 to 1 small donor matching program to get big money out of politics and free our legislators to concentrate on the needs of their constituents rather than their big campaign donors. The Governor and the Senate included good small donor programs in their budget. The Assembly, however, is hedging in spite of its previous support and did not include funds in its one house bill. Senator Myrie held an excellent fair elections hearing last week where we heard some thoughtful reservations about the small donor matching program including the punitive nature of the New York City audit of those who used the 6-1 matching program. We also heard that Connecticut worked out the problem in their system and that these issues can be easily addressed. It seems reasonable that legitimate concerns raised by Assembly members can be resolved in the next week but, if more time is needed, a binding resolution to ensure funds for public financing is in this budget is a must. What concerns us is that the obstacles Assembly Members in particular complain about have become rationalizations to do nothing. Many offer lukewarm support or active resistance because they donât want to make it easy for people to challenge their incumbency nor do they want to give up their big money donors who contribute to considerable war chests for re-election. So we need to call our legislators and really pin them down on a commitment to include public financing in this budget and not kick the can down the road. We need leadership here. We want to say to our lawmakers âdonât bring the electorate problems but solutions.â There are so many editorials being published in newspapers across the state in support of small donor matching for campaigns. Here are a few:
Syracuse.com, March 24, 2019
Decarceration: Elimination of Cash Bail, Discovery and Speedy Trial Reform
Second, we need to see a well conceived criminal justice reform package included in the budget. The Governor would like to see this happen and offers political cover to wavering politicians by wrapping it all up in the budget instead of wavering legislators having to take a vote on a stand alone bill. The Assembly has sent over to the Senate its package of reforms although they are not made public. The Senate is considering them but there is considerable division within the Senate about the proposal to end cash bail in particular. There are two principle issues:
1) If we eliminate cash bail, we are left to ask who is automatically released and who is subject to pre-incarceration. For proponents, we want to narrow the number of people subject to pre-incarceration while others want to broaden it. The goal is not to replace one system with another system which keeps just as many or more people locked up.
2) The other issue focuses on the use of dangerousness as a factor in determining whether a person is released or incarcerated. Under present statute, dangerousness cannot be used as criteria in setting bail which was only meant to serve as a tool to ensure a person would return to court. Introducing dangerousness is a new twist. Itâs tricky because what is viewed as dangerousness can be more precisely defined or be so loosely construed that more people would be incarcerated who really do not pose a danger.
We think agreement is much closer on speedy trial and discovery reform than the elimination of cash bail but we now need to see some real leadership from our legislators to work out the best deal. We donât want just any bill but a good bill which furthers the goal of decareration. It seems to us at this point the focus is on the Senate to come together to bring a proposal forward to be negotiated with the Assembly and the Governor.
Finally, we would like to see granting of drivers licenses for undocumented people included in the budget. We need to make it easier and safer for people to care for their families, go to doctor visits, get to the grocery story and work. This is particularly critical in transportation deserts or in rural areas where there is no transportation at all. Granting drivers licenses will also generate about 57 million in extra state revenue. Some democrats who might be inclined to support driverâs licenses are reluctant to stand up to voters with anti-immigrant sensibilities.
Most other issues will likely find themselves discussed post budget including but not limited to:
Ã Separation of Children Response Act (SCAR) with a lobby day on April 2
Ã Parole reform
Ã Divestment of fossil fuels from state pension funds,
Ã Prevailing wage requirements
Ã Climate and Community Protection Act (call in day on March 26)
Ã An expanded bottle recycling bill
Ã Marijuana legalization
Ã Universal rent control (Action in New York City on April 11) and
Ã Anti-sex trafficking legislation
THE ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM
We need to do the very best we can in this budget to increase education and human service and health care funding, restore aid to municipalities and ensure we have in place a small donor matching program in place.
Post budget, we need to address few structural problems, âelephants in the roomâ, which really limit what we can do to address poverty and wealth inequality. This includes lifting the 2% spending cap and looking at real strategies for progressive taxation while reducing property tax burdens by the state picking up more of its responsibility which it currently cost shifts to the counties and towns. Making the 2% property tax permanent is a cheap political gimmick which addresses the symptom of high property taxes while completely failing to address the underlying pressures which keep property taxes high. We also need to revisit the cost effectiveness of how we spend 10 billion in economic development dollars (not subject to the 2% spending cap) and turn our attention to more bottom up economic investments.
TOOLS TO HELP YOU TALK WITH YOUR LEGISLATOR
BUDGET, TAXES AND SMALL DONOR MATCHING
In addition to calling up your Assembly Member and Senator to get them on record in support of small donor match, we suggest you share with them how many people in their district actually make over 5 million a year in income. The answer in most districts is a number around 0 or perhaps 1 or 2. Itâs also useful to share with them how much education aid is still owed their district. It is well to ask why anyone, Republican or Democrat, would be so against an ultra millionaireâs tax since it affects so few of their constituents and when such a tax might actually provide more education funding and property tax relief for the vast majority of their constituents who actually vote.
You can also see all New York State Council of Churches 2019 Legislative Asks and the New Hope, New York Budget Principles by clicking here. You can also read the Fiscal Policy Instituteâs Budget Analysis by going to Fiscalpolicy.org
Here is some more messaging in case you are in need of some inspiration on how to frame it:
All New Yorkers want great public schools, solid healthcare, meaningful work, good public transportation, clean water and air and a viable climate future. We want a good future for our families. We want our state to lead the nation on economic, social, racial, immigrant and environmental justice. We want a strong economy that delivers prosperity to all of us — white, Black, Latinx and Asian — and that will benefit all of us: consumers, workers, business people, investors, and retirees.
But right now weâve got the worst economic inequality in the nation. Itâs time for bold action to reduce inequality, tax the rich and invest in our communities.
Right now, in this yearâs state budget, we can raise money for schools, housing, green jobs and essential community services by making Wall Street and the wealthy pay their fair share.
The top 1% has captured the vast majority of income and wealth gains over the last decade, with gains to corporate profits and investments accelerating far faster than wages.
The Trump tax plan gave New York millionaires and billionaires massive tax cuts on income, estates, pass-through business income and corporate profits â while actually raising federal taxes on middle-class households in New York.
Working and middle-class New Yorkers canât pay more. And they donât have to.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the Assembly Majority Conference have proposed new state income tax brackets at the high end to capture the explosion of income and wealth among multi-millionaires and billionaires: additional brackets for marginal income over $5 million, $10 million and $100 million would raise over $2.1 billion per year.
CARRIED INTEREST FAIRNESS FEE
Right now private equity and hedge fund managers often pay a lower tax rate than teachers and truck drivers — the âcarried interestâ loophole lets them pay the lower capital gains tax rate on the fees they charge investors. Trump and the GOP didnât close this loophole, despite their campaign promises.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has included a state-level âcarried interest fairness feeâ in his budget proposal for the second year in a row; itâs previously been supported by the Assembly Majority and would raise over $3.5 billion per year.
Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry also sponsor this measure as a stand-alone piece of legislation (S. 303/A. 3976).
NEW YORK CITY PIED-Ã-TERRE TAX
Right now over 75,000 apartments in New York City are owned by individuals who donât live there full time â including the apartment recently purchased by Chicago hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin for $238 million, the highest price ever paid for a house or apartment in the United States.
Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Deborah Glick sponsor legislation (S. 44/A. 4540) to create a sliding tax surcharge on luxury condos and apartments that are second or third or fourth or fifth homes.
For properties valued between $5 million and $6 million, a 0.5 percent surcharge would be added on the value over $5 million. Fees and a higher surcharge would apply to homes that sold for more than $6 million, topping out at a $370,000 fee and a 4 percent surcharge for homes valued at more than $25 million.
City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer estimates that a pied-Ã -terre tax would bring in a minimum of $650 million per year.
ITâS TIME FOR ACTION
New York has more multi-millionaires and billionaires than any other state. We have 63% more millionaires now than before we started our current Millionaires Tax. in 2017 New York City enjoyed a 15% one-year increase in residents with over $30 million in assets — itâs now home to 103 billionaires.
We can tax the rich to invest in our communities in this yearâs state budget. We encourage all lawmakers — and particularly the strong, progressive Democratic Senate Majority conference — to move forward for fairness.
Working-class, middle-class and low-income New Yorkers wonât pay a dime in new taxes. But multi-millionaires and billionaires can and should.
âWe follow FDR who said, âHere is my principle. Taxes shall be levied according to the ability to pay. That is the only American principle.â â
— Governor Andrew Cuomo, December 2018
PLEASE free to include other budget asks as per your group
Ask for all the revenue lines: Pied Dâ Terre, Real Estate Transfer Tax and Ultra-Millionaires Tax (applies to people earning 5 million and above) to be in the budget.
Increase in Education and Human Service Funding
Both the Assembly and the Senate substantially increased the amount for education and took a big step forward by including about a 1/3 of the remaining foundation aid owed to our schools. Both bodies also restored cuts to a variety of human service programs and provided more local aid than what the Governor proposed. We really needed to see more increases in money for human services to mirror the needed increases in education. One bright spot is that the Assembly proposed 100 million for the Home Stability Support program. The Senate included 20 million. The Governor has none. The program received support from 12 members of the US Congressional delegation this morning. Click here to see the article in the Daily News and click here to see the delegation letter.
Our ask for the budget:
Retain the funding level for education proposed by the Assembly and the Senate in the final budget. Restore all cuts to human services —plus some additional support including cost of living raises for human service workers and 100 million for Home Stability Support.
Small Donor Matching
We need a 6 to 1 small donor matching program to get big money out of politics and free our legislators to concentrate on the needs of their constituents rather than their big campaign donors. The Governor and the Senate included good programs in their budget. The Assembly is hedging in spite of its previous support and did not include funds in their one house bill.
Our ask for the budget:
We ask each Senator and Assembly person to be on the record that they support small donor matching and will vote for it in this budget.