Hawkins (G-NY) Slams Cuomo/Republican Austerity Budget, Good Business to Invest in the Public Sector

Howie Hawkins

Howie Hawkins

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said today that today that he was the only candidate for New York State this year standing up for average working New Yorkers, not Wall Street special interests.

Hawkins pledged to rebuild upstate cities such as Syracuse, starting with making the state comply with the revenue sharing law that was enacted by Governor Rockefeller.

Hawkins, who recently became a homeowner in Syracuse said:

It is time to deliver on the promises we hear each election cycle about how our Albany lawmakers are going to provide living wage jobs, credit and capital for business expansion, affordable housing, and better schools for our upstate communities.

Hawkins said that under Democratic Governor candidate Andrew Cuomo, the Democrats were offering New Yorkers a “big bankers’ economic agenda,” including a government spending cap and freezing pay for state workers while protecting big Wall Street financial institutions and wealthy campaign contributors from any tax hikes. Hawkins also faulted Cuomo for hardly touching the environment in his recently released 250-page campaign platform. Cuomo, for instance, fails to support a ban on hydrofracking for natural gas or to call for the shut down of the state’s nuclear plants.

Hawkins said:

With a Democrat like Cuomo, who needs the Republicans? Cuomo’s economic austerity program continues the Paterson policy agenda and share the same basic fiscal and economic policies as the Republican platforms of Lazio, Levy, and Palladino. The state’s budget crisis is not due to overspending on schools, parks, health care, and poverty programs. It is not due to state workers making an average salary of $40,000 or retiring on $16,000 a year pensions on average. The problem is that for decades we have given huge tax breaks to the richest 5 percent and especially the top 1 percent that owns 70 percent of all financial assets. If the rich paid their fair share of taxes, we would have a budget surplus, not a deficit.

Hawkins delivered his message in a news conference in a Skiddy Park, a city park in Syracuse’s low-income near west side neighborhood, during a week when it was unclear whether the state would manage to  open the state parks for Memorial Day Weekend. The park is adjacent to the Blodgett public school, which Hawkins noted needs but has not received funds for rehabilitation. The park is also next to the James Geddes public housing project. Legislation before Congress supported by the Obama administration would have public housing fund repairs by mortgaging projects to investors instead of through HUD grants.

“Our parks, our schools, our public housing, all of our public institutions and infrastructure are being gutted by spending cuts and sold off in privatizations by the big corporate parties. If we don’t draw the line and fight back, we are going to lose them for good. We’ll have a toll booth society, where every formerly public good requires an out-of-pocket fee, and average people will be like 19th century company town workers perpetually indebted to the company store,” Hawkins warned.

“The two corporate parties, starting with Andrew’s father, gave huge tax cuts to the rich that cut state revenues by more than $16 billion this year from rebating the Stock Transfer Tax alone. Cuomo and his fellow politicians in Albany are now moving into the second stage of their campaign, using the deficits created by the tax giveaways to their campaign contributors as a pretext to cut funding for schools, housing, jobs, and other essential services. They want to impose IMF-style structural adjustment on New York to make working people pay for rich folk’s tax cuts and to pay off the state bonds they own,” said Hawkins.

“Cuomo’s fiscal cuts and corporate welfare proposals will reinforce a vicious circle of debt and depression. Reduced public spending when private sector business and household demand is depressed will further depress the economy, reduce tax revenues, and lead to more public spending cuts to balance the budget. What we need instead is to make the rich pay their fair share of taxes in order to stimulate our economy by fully funding our schools, parks, health care, aid to local governments, and other public goods,” said Hawkins.

Cuomo reiterated his rejection of any hike on taxes on millionaires or Wall Street on Thursday. Hawkins wants the state to keep the $16 billion it rebates annually to Wall Street speculators from the Stock Transfer Tax. He also supports restoring the more progressive income tax structure New York had in the 1970s as well as a special surcharge on the record bonuses that the big bank executives and traders are giving themselves after receiving trillions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts.

Hawkins said he found it hard to understand how Cuomo, who played a major role in his father’s Gubernatorial campaigns and then used those family connections to secure a plum patronage job as head of HUD, could offer himself as the change agent that would get rid of the Albany political culture that he has been such a central player in for decades.

“Andrew Cuomo is not going to clean up Albany anymore than Mario Cuomo, Eliot Spitzer, or David Paterson did. I agree with the need to stop the gerrymandering of legislative district lines and stronger ethic laws and independent oversight of state lawmakers. We need to prohibit those who do business with the state from making contributions to state lawmakers. But we need far more fundamental changes that Cuomo wants. We need to democratize legislative rules so rank-and-file lawmakers and legislative committees have power. We need to eliminate, not cut, member items, which are another power base for the legislative leaders’ domination of the state legislature. We need to join virtually every other democracy in the world by using proportional representation to elect our state government so that the legislature is not monopolized by the two big corporate-financed parties,” said Hawkins.

In a proportional representation system, seats in a legislative body are allocated to political parties based on the percentage of votes each party receives. No votes are “wasted” because every vote helps elect representatives proportionate to their support in the whole election. Proportional representationyields a multi-party democracy where lawmakers accurately reflect the full spectrum of political perspectives of society. In contrast, the single-member-district, winner-take-all elections used in the US result in mostly one-party districts for the majority party in the district. One-party districts discourage voter participation because the results are already known before the election. Even in the few competitive districts and elections, winner-take-all encourages defensive voting for the lesser evil, leaving the two corporate parties entrenched in power to divvy up the spoils for patronage.

Hawkins called upon Cuomo to join him in refusing donations for corporate interests.

Hawkins also said that he would make state lawmakers comply with Section 54 of the State Finance Law to share 8% of the revenues it collects with local government.

“Why is it that state lawmakers have refused for decades to repeal Rockefeller’s drug laws that have devastated our inner cities, throwing many of our young people of color into prisons, while refusing to comply with the law that requires the state to provide funding to cities to help them pay for the schools and other services they can no longer afford due to suburban flight. The failure to comply with revenue sharing is a major reason for the high rates of poverty in our upstate cities, as well as high local property and sales taxes that hit hardest on low and moderate income households,” noted Hawkins.

Hawkins said Cuomo’s proposal to create jobs by giving businesses a tax credit of up to $3,000 for each unemployed New Yorker they hired was just more corporate welfare that would do little to help the 800,000 residents out of work. “Instead we need to establish a state bank under democratic control that is focused on financing the new productive assets and businesses we need for a sustainable green economy. We can’t wait anymore for the big Wall Street banks that prefer to speculate on financial assets to make job-creating investments. For those who cannot find work in the private sector, I would turn our unemployment offices into employment offices. When the private sector can’t provide enough jobs, the government will hire you to care for our children in childcare and parks programs, care for the elderly, fix up housing, run recycling programs, and provide all the other goods and services the will improve our quality of life. Rather than drain the public treasury with unemployment, we should pay the able-bodied who want to work to do jobs that improve our communities,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins noted that groups like New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness have documented how spending caps such as Cuomo is proposing would be bad for New York. Colorado is the birthplace of the State Spending Cap, enacting in 1992 a constitutional amendment that limits the annual growth in state revenues and expenditures. The Spending Cap contributed to a significant decline in public services  Colorado declined from 35th to 49th in the nation in K-12 spending; higher education funding dropped by 31 percent; and, the share of low-income children in the state who lacked health insurance doubled, making Colorado the worst in the nation. In 2005, these problems led Colorado voters to approve a statewide measure to suspend the spending cap for five years in order to allow the state to rebuild its public services.

“Revitalizing the public sector is smart economics when household and business demand are depressed. The Hooveristic austerity budgets of Cuomo and the Republicans will endanger economic recovery in New York,” Hawkins said.

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