May 2, 2023 (Albany, NY) – Members of Citizen Action of New York are responding to the culmination of a difficult budget year in which they managed to influence policies that uphold their collective vision as outlined in Our Justice Agenda. In response, Rebecca Garrard, Legislative Director for Citizen Action of New York, had the following to say:
“The Governor has outsized power in the budget process, and Hochul’s close ties and deep commitment to billionaire donors prevented us from getting the budget New Yorkers need and deserve. While the final budget falls short on meeting our communities’ needs on crucial issues, there are some important victories, thanks to a courageous cadre of legislators and the legislative leadership who defended everyday New Yorkers against an onslaught of privatizers and profiteers trying to cash in on campaign promises, as well as decades of organizing and coalition building by Citizen Action led coalitions
“We appreciate the legislature for refusing to cave on a housing budget that did not include Good Cause tenant protections. Unfortunately, these crucial legal protections from unreasonable rent hikes and evictions without cause were not included in the final state budget–but neither were the giveaways to big corporate developers that Governor Hochul and her industry donors wanted. We are ready to see a legislative package for housing that includes Good Cause tenant protections before the end of the 2023 legislative session.
“Corporate school privatizers have pumped billions into the relentless pursuit of more charter schools. Governor Hochul’s plan to flood New York City with 100 new charter schools was a cynical ploy to siphon away the Foundation Aid funding that public schools in the poorest zip codes only just began receiving. It is a relief to see her expansion plans cut down to only 22 new licenses for ‘zombie’ charters that have failed and shuttered. Most importantly, the budget includes full foundation aid–which parents and educators spent 20 years fighting for–closing the funding gap for schools in low-income zip codes.
“Every family deserves high quality, affordable child care. Without it, parents are forced out of the workplace and children miss out on crucial early learning opportunities. While we have further to go to make child care universally accessible–and ensure early childhood educators earn enough to live on and all families have access to child care regardless of immigration status–the legislature successfully negotiated $100 million more in funding than what Governor Hochul had proposed.
“While corporations and the ultra-wealthy continue to make record profits, the Governor refused to Invest In Our New York in order to ensure that the millions of New Yorkers who are mired in poverty will remain there. Billions of dollars in revenue were left on the table in order to cater to special interest donors, while the minimum wage increase will do nothing to bring low-income and working-class New Yorkers out of the staggering depths of wage inequity that exist in our state and across the country.
“Health care is a human right and New York has made great strides in removing economic barriers to accessing health care. Yet in a cynical and callous move, Governor Hochul blocked Coverage for All in the state budget, which means New York will continue the discriminatory and harmful approach of denying health care insurance to income-eligible people solely because of their immigration status. It is indefensible how the Governor went against the will of the people and our legislators–who included Coverage for All in both one-house budgets–to deny health care to New Yorkers because of their immigration status.
“It is a travesty that this Governor was successful in her fight to weaken New York’s bail laws, which will result in undermining civil rights and caging more Black and Brown New Yorkers before they’ve had their day in court – based on rhetoric and not in the interest of public safety. We commend the legislature, however, for holding the line on protecting discovery laws that ensure New Yorkers do not languish indefinitely in jail when they have not even been convicted of a crime.
“The new Public Campaign Finance Program is an important silver lining in this otherwise bleak state budget. The Public Campaign Finance Program will allow candidates for statewide and state legislative offices to access matching funds for qualified individual donations under $250–and the smaller the donation, the greater the multiplier match. This gives everyday voters a greater voice and diminishes the power of big money donors in our electoral process. The result of years of organizing for a stronger democracy, this program is our chance to apply our people power and shift the priorities in Albany by electing champions for the public good. We thank the legislature and the Governor for keeping the commitment to this system for the 2024 election cycle and look forward to working together to build a government that works for all, and not just the ultra-wealthy few.
“In addition, there was progress made in a number areas concerning climate, such as the sustainable conversion of state buildings and the protections placed around the spending of climate investments. However, dedicated state funding is needed to kick start New York’s transition to renewables. We will seek further legislative action during the remainder of the session to ensure that the promises of the 2019 Climate Act become reality.
“The issues that Citizen Action fights for are interconnected, because they affect our everyday well-being. Now that the budget has passed, members of Citizen Action will continue to organize and speak up for legislation that addresses Our Justice Agenda–including housing policies that create stability, education policy that promotes restorative approaches for students, climate policy that moves our Capitol to renewable energy, and an end to forced labor in New York State prisons through closing the loophole in the 13th amendment. As we call upon our elected leaders to champion these crucial policies, we also look towards the 2024 elections as our first chance to support truly people-powered candidates for State Senate and Assembly.”
Citizen Action of New York is a grassroots membership organization with seven regional chapters across New York State. We work on issues important to our communities, including fair elections, equitable school funding, housing for all, environmental justice, and possibilities not punishment.