Says Cuomo's Urban Agenda Describes Problem but Fails to Fund Solutions; Opposes Layoff of State Workers
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said today that he would help strengthen New York's urban areas with a massive public jobs program; strong tenant rights and affordable housing; increased funding for child care, education and other essential services; and enactment of a state single payer Medicare for All program.
Hawkins said that his administration would assist local communities in developing sustainable Green Cities. Integrating environmental priorities into economic, transportation, zoning, urban agriculture and community food security, energy, solid waste and planning decisions would improve the quality of life of city residents.
Hawkins also outlined a related five point plan to provide local property tax relief, including a state takeover of the local contributions to Medicaid; compliance with existing state law on state revenue sharing; and increased state funding of local schools.
Hawkins would also redirect the revenue from the flawed STAR Property Tax Relief Program to target relief to those who most need it though an expanded property tax circuit breaker. The Green Party candidate opposes the property tax cap being promoted by Democrats Andrew Cuomo and Governor Paterson, as well as the mandatory property tax cuts proposed by Republican Carl Paladino.
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, has announced his opposition to the proposed layoffs of state workers by Governor Paterson.
"As we have pointed out throughout this campaign, the state's fiscal crisis is the result of the handouts to the rich from state lawmakers, including massive tax cuts to the wealthy and the rebate of $16 billion from the stock transfer tax. State workers are not the cause of the state's fiscal crisis and should not be scapegoated like this. It is bizarre that Governor Paterson seems intent on making layoffs the prime legacy of his flawed administration. It is also bad that Cuomo as Attorney General has put politics ahead of the law in holding that this layoffs aren't in violation of the state's contracts with the work force," Hawkins stated
Hawkins called Andy Cuomo's recent proposed Urban Agenda his "standard practice of summarizing existing government programs, promoting some best practices and detailing problems while avoiding innovative policy initiatives or committing the funding needed."
"Cuomo just doesn't get it when it comes to grasping the magnitude of the problems facing New York. For instance, when it comes to jobs and the economy, Cuomo acts like Herbert Hoover rather than FDR. We are in the greatest recession since the Great Depression and Cuomo refuses to create public jobs. Instead he scapegoats unions and calls for property tax caps and a freeze on public spending," noted Hawkins.
Hawkins particularly faulted Cuomo for his weak proposals on affordable housing, including his failure to address expanded help for tenants. Cuomo's campaign has been heavily financed by NYC real estate interests.
"One of the biggest problems with housing, hunger and poverty in America were the devastating cuts that were enacted in federal housing programs at the beginning of the Reagan administration. This directly led to the creation of three thousand new emergency food programs in NYS, with many working families being forced to spend half or more of their income on housing. These cuts were not rescinded when Cuomo was head of HUD under Clinton nor have they been rescinded under the Obama administration. And they aren't going to be addressed by a new Cuomo administration according to his urban agenda," Hawkins noted.
Hawkins supports a moratorium of housing foreclosures until the questions of title are resolved and an effective mortgage refinancing program is in place. Hawkins would model his mortgage refinancing program on the Home Ownership Loan Corporation of the New Deal. Refinancing would reduce principal to pre-housing bubble prices and replace sub-prime high and variable interest loans with long-term, fixed-rate mortgages. Cuomo just wants to strengthen foreclosure prevention programs without getting specific.
Hawkins said that Cuomo's jobs program was largely nonexistent, especially in inner city communities with massive unemployment; Cuomo just proposes the same failed mixture of tax subsidies and handouts that hasn't worked for decades Hawkins in contrast has called for a WPA style jobs program. If the private sector can not provide a New York resident with a job, they can go to the local employment office and get a job helping to improve the community.
Cuomo also fails to call for a hike in the state minimum wage. Hawkins believe it should be raised to at least $12 an hour.
Hawkins said he would propose that the state comply with existing laws, enacted by Governor Rockefeller, to require the state to share 8% of its revenues with local governments, especially cities. The law was enacted to recognize the financial problems New York cities, especially upstate, face as a result of suburban flight and the reduced inner city property tax base. Unfortunately, every year the governor and lawmakers suspend Sec. 54 of the State Finance Law when they pass the state budget.
"A major factor in the high rate of property taxes in New York is the incredible level of tax cuts given to the wealthy by state lawmakers over the last three decades, costing more than $24 billion annually between the rebate of the Stock Transfer Tax and the flatter personal income tax structure of today compared to the more progressive structure before the 1980s. Meanwhile, the state is only meeting 25% of its revenue sharing requirements. This has resulted in a great tax shift from a progressive income tax to regressive local sales and property taxes, from the very rich upper class to the poor, working, and middle classes," Hawkins said.
Medicaid is the single largest, mandated budget item in every New York county. It consumes, on average, 45 percent of each county's real property tax levy. In some instances, 100 percent of the county property tax levy is consumed by Medicaid. The national Tax Foundation's just released annual property tax report found that nine New York counties are in the top ten of the highest property taxes in the nation. That result, Hawkins said, was due to the State's requirement that counties fund a large portion of Medicaid. Hawkins wants the state to takeover the local Medicaid contributions.
Hawkins added the best way to control health care costs for taxpayers, consumers and employers is with a publicly financed, single-payer program to replace the wasteful private insurance industry with its high administrative costs, fragmentary billing system, duplicative services, high executive salaries, and profit-oriented price raising.
"New York has to cut health care costs. This must start by getting rid of the huge waste and costs associated with private health insurance. The state's own study, while biased against a single payer Medicare for all program, had to still reluctantly admit that single payer was by far the most cost-efficient way to provide quality health care to all New Yorkers. A single payer system would also cut tax spending by reducing the amount local governments and school districts pay to provide health care benefits to their workers," noted Hawkins.
In a recent report on Medicaid, the NYS Association of Counties reported that administration only accounted for 2% of the total $52 billion the State spent on Medicaid last year. By contrast, administration, including exorbitant executive salaries, accounts for 31% of private health insurance costs. The state health care funding study by the Urban Institute concluded that a state single payer system would reduce health care costs for New Yorkers by $28 billion annually by 2019 compared to the insurance mandate system just enacted by Congress.
Hawkins said that a property tax cap was the wrong approach to address the problem of high property taxes. It would merely freeze in place existing inequities in the state's tax system that already hurts senior citizens and workers while starving schools of much needed funding increases that have been mandated by the courts.
Hawkins said the experience in other states show that property tax caps lead to cuts in education and other essential services. He said he education system in California deteriorated dramatically after a property tax cap was imposed by Proposition 13 in 1978. When he went to public schools in the 1950s and 1960s, California schools ranked nationally as among the best. Today they have fallen to 48th in student achievement, Hawkins noted.
Hawkins said he would target tax relief (e.g. S. 4239, Krueger) to senior citizens and middle-class homeowners and renters who need it the most, through a circuit breaker, which would limit property taxes to a percentage of household income. Thirty-five states already have adopted circuit breakers to provide help to homeowners. New York already has a limited circuit breaker.