Albany, NY – In response to Governor Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State Address, Rosemary Rivera, Co-Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York issued the following statement:
“In the nine years that Governor Cuomo has been in office, he’s made it clear who his real constituents are: the 112 billionaires in New York State with a combined net worth three times the size of our state budget. Cuomo has allowed them to write the rules so they can keep getting richer off our work, our housing, our health, and our schools, while average New Yorkers struggle to get by.
“When we talk about extreme inequality hurting our communities, we don’t mean it in the abstract. Homelessness is a crisis in every part of our state. Under Governor Cuomo’s watch, the number of people experiencing homelessness has skyrocketed 40%. Cuomo’s choice year after year not to close the funding gap between wealthy school districts and Black, Brown and low-income schools means that our state ranks 49th in the nation on equity in education spending. He’s continually prioritized tax cuts and the spending cuts they demand, putting our communities in a downward spiral.
“Cuomo needs to tax corporations and the super-rich. He needs to pass a wealth tax that helps reverse decades of rigged tax policy—like the Trump tax scam. He needs to raise taxes on the big, multinational corporations. And he needs to update the millionaires’ tax to actually reflect the obscene wealth captured by the ultra rich. Budgets are a reflection of priorities. Investing in quality public education, housing, renewable energy infrastructure, affordable child care, and quality health care is the only way we can unrig the system and give every New Yorker what they need to thrive.”
Governor Cuomo said today that it’s time to stop playing politics with education funding. But when it comes to fully funding Foundation Aid to closing the funding gap, he stacked the deck against our students. Rochester City Schools were forced to make devastating cutbacks this month and layoff nearly 100 teachers and staff in the middle of the school year. In a school district where more than half the kids live in poverty, facing challenges like food and housing insecurity, there’s no telling the lasting impact that these cuts will have on their futures. It’s cruel, it’s unconstitutional and there’s no excuse. To do right by Rochester students and kids all across the state, we need a commitment to fund the $3.8 billion in Foundation Aid owed to public schools.
- Paid Sick Days
All workers should have the right to paid sick days and we applaud the prioritization of a statewide paid sick days law. At least ten states have already enacted such laws, as have New York City and Westchester County, demonstrating clearly the benefits for workers and their families; and for the overall health of communities. Strong enforcement and protection against retribution, and the inclusion of safe time–the right to use sick leave to seek services related to domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking–will be key elements to look for in any proposed bills.
- Justice Reform
A number of critical pieces of legislation to address the crisis of mass incarceration were left on the table during the last legislative session. Governor Cuomo should work with policy experts, advocates, impacted communities and legislative leaders in the State Senate and Assembly to expand accountability and transparency around police misconduct by passing the Safer NY Act, passing the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act to address the harm caused to Black and Brown communities by the War on Drugs, ending the torture of solitary confinement with the HALT Solitary Confinement Act and creating a fairer parole system that prioritizes rehabilitation and releasing aging people from prison. We expect Governor Cuomo to reject calls to revisit the historic pretrial reforms passed last year, which would open the door to reversing New York’s progress toward ending money bail. The new pretrial laws need to be fully and justly implemented without the expansion of judicial discretion or bail eligible charges, and while rejecting racist standards like so-called predictive dangerousness or other “risk-assessment” tools.
Governor Cuomo acknowledged the crisis of the over 90,000 New Yorkers who face homelessness on any given day in New York. The people of this state need more than words and unfulfilled promises. If the Governor wants to meaningfully address the failed policies which have caused a nearly 40% increase in homelessness during his tenure, he will work with the Assembly and Senate to stop unjust evictions, pass the Home Stability and Support Act, and allocate $3 billion for public housing. We need more than rhetoric. We need legislative solutions that house New Yorkers.
We were extremely disappointed that Governor Cuomo did not announce the significant funding needed to fulfill New York’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy, nor did he direct funding to low income communities and communities of color who have been most impacted by fossil fuel facilities and pollution. Tremendous grassroots pressure from across the state, and from our allies in NY Renews coalition, led to passage of landmark climate legislation in 2019, but Governor Cuomo must now commit to fully implementing the new law.
- Health Care
Despite New York’s successful efforts in recent years to expand coverage and address health care affordability, there is still much to be done. Over one million New Yorkers still lack health coverage and even people with health insurance face problems affording health care costs. We were therefore extremely disappointed that the Governor didn’t take comprehensive steps to fill in the gaps in health coverage and to address affordability. In particular, if New York is to truly be a champion of immigrants, as the Governor has set out as a goal, he must provide significant state dollars to cover New Yorkers who today have no health coverage due to their immigration status.