Albany – After the recent passage of the 2022-23 New York State Budget, Citizen Action of New York is making clear that the fight for policy that works for all New Yorkers is far from over. In a statement on Monday, they identified their priorities for the post-budget session and made it clear that they expect the legislature to deliver.

Legislative Director Rebecca Garrard had the following to say: “Nothing says more clearly what Governor Hochul’s priorities are than the items that she fought for in this budget—she has unquestionably sided with the wealthiest in our state, at the expense of everyday New Yorkers. However, the post-budget period gives the legislature the opportunity to pass crucial policies that minimize the harm done by this budget. We are ramping up the pressure to pass policies that will protect access to housing, end medical debt, promote equity in education, reduce racial bias in the criminal legal system, address climate change and support democracy.”

Housing
Citizen Action is fighting for a housing agenda that puts the needs of everyday people first, extends protection to the vulnerable and makes it possible for everyone to stay in good, safe housing. We will keep fighting to stop Governor Hochul’s state subsidies for luxury housing, and demand the passage of Good Cause tenant protections, stopping retaliatory evictions and predatory rent hikes.

“Landlords are jacking up rents so much faster than most people’s wages are rising, especially here in Binghamton. Our economy cannot support these prices — families are struggling, working to JUST pay rent, without the ability to cover utilities, groceries, care for their children, or save,” said Lia Silva, Citizen Action – Southern Tier Chapter member. “Our community needs real access to high-quality, low-cost housing, and we need Good Cause tenant protections to pass this year so that my neighbors are safe in the homes they’ve been lucky enough to find.”

Criminal Legal Reform
We will keep working with Leader Stewart Cousins and Speaker Heastie to pass a true public safety agenda that includes Clean Slate, Elder Parole, and microstamping to prevent gun violence. These bills help repair the harm that mass incarceration has done to Black and Brown communities in New York.

“A lot of people have been incarcerated since the 1970s, 80s, or 90s and haven’t been eligible for parole mainly based on their original charges — the one thing they have no power to change. These elders have been missing out on their children’s, grandchildren’s, and great-grandchildren’s lives,” said Yvonne Griffin, Citizen Action – Central NY Chapter member. “Releasing aging people from prison poses no threat to society because they’re too busy catching up on the important life moments they’ve missed. Clean Slate would give these elders a second chance: they’ll be able to get a job or move into low-income family housing next to their loved ones, so they can help raise their grandchildren. With both Elder Parole and Clean Slate, we can provide a clear path to good jobs and a safe place to live so that our elders can return to their families.”

Democracy
Pay-for-play politics has got to go. The passage of public finance legislation in New York was a victory for grassroots democracy, and now we want to make sure the system actually gets up and running. Whether Albany hears our voices should not be determined by the size of our wallets, and the public financing system makes it easier for everyday New Yorkers to run for and win elected office.

“This year’s budget included a strong down payment on our new system to publicly finance elections in New York. This should be the last election cycle where we have to put up with the pay-to-play politics that dominates Albany now. By getting the full scale program up and running by next year, we can have a state government that reflects the voices of all the people, not just the wealthy and well-connected,” said Citizen Action – NYC Chapter member Thomas Connelly.

Education
We must ensure that all of our students, including those from Black, Brown, and low-income neighborhoods, are able to access a quality education with supportive and respectful relationships with teachers and staff. We are fighting for legislation that keeps children in school and encourages the use of positive and age-appropriate disciplinary strategies over punitive and police-based tactics.

“For too long, the children of my community have experienced harsh punishment instead of the kind of guidance that can help them learn and mature,” said Citizen Action Member and Utica School Board Candidate James Paul. “Punishing poverty and trauma just perpetuates the cycles of both. We must pass legislation which ensures that resources are used for our students’ success, and that includes counselors, social workers and mentors–adults who can help steer kids in the right direction.”

Healthcare
We believe that every human being has a right to access healthcare, and we will keep fighting to end medical debt, which forces people into financial crisis for health circumstances outside of their control.

“Medical debt is a growing, worsening problem, affecting more and more of our community members every year, especially here in an already expensive city like NYC,” said Mark Hannay, Citizen Action – NYC Chapter member. “No one should have to choose between getting medical care or keeping a roof over their heads. The legislature must act this session to put the health and welfare of New York residents ahead of the profits of big hospitals.”

Climate
Everyone deserves to live in a healthy and resilient community, protected from extreme weather and pollution. To that end, the New York State legislature has a responsibility to make sure that the landmark 2019 climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), is fully implemented.

“Climate disasters are already disproportionately affecting our communities. Investing in a green future for New York is investing in the future of New York — period,” said Bess Zafran, Citizen Action – Capital District Chapter member. “If we want to leave a New York that our kids and their grandkids can enjoy, the legislature must move meaningfully on the promise of climate action now.”

The governor has outsized power in our state budget process and Governor Hochul leveraged that power to ram through changes that will benefit her wealthy campaign donors and deeply harm New York’s most vulnerable residents. But our fight is not over. After the budget, power shifts back to the legislature and we will continue to push Leader Stewart Cousins and Speaker Heastie to deliver for us. Recent history has shown us that when we work together, we can achieve great victories for New Yorkers in this important window of time. Hochul’s decision to prioritize the wealthy and well-connected over everyday New Yorkers will only fuel our fire to continue demanding a New York where everyone can thrive.

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