Responding to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address today, Working Families Party Director Bill Lipton called on the Governor to embrace a bolder agenda that addresses inequality and puts working families first:
Good afternoon. I’m Bill Lipton, Director of New York’s Working Families Party.
Today, Governor Cuomo addressed New Yorkers with significant proposals to raise the minimum wage, relieve student debt and reform our criminal justice system. Working Families members have worked hard on these issues and we applaud the governor for these measures.
But working families have been losing ground for decades: Wages are stagnant or declining. Unemployment is still far too high. And the richest 1% have captured 95% of the income gains of the economic recovery.
The Governor’s proposals don’t deliver the kind of change we need. Today, I want to lay out a bolder agenda to reverse the slide towards greater inequality and put working families first.
Recently I spoke with Emily Sullivan, a 28-year-old mother of two young children who lives in Rochester. A model employee, Emily’s worked full-time at Wendy’s for 8 years. If the Governor’s minimum wage proposal passes, it’ll help, but the truth is Emily and her children will still struggle below the poverty line. We call on the governor to follow San Francisco and Seattle’s lead and pass a minimum wage people can live on: $15 an hour. If the Senate Republicans balk, Governor Cuomo can do it himself, taking executive action with a wage board.
Every year, Jamaica Miles of Schenectady watches as there are more staff and budget cuts in her kids’ schools. By the time her 4th grader, Ilias, reaches high school, there may be no more of the advanced placement classes that helped her eldest daughter get into NYU. And there may be no pre-K slots at all by the time her youngest, Malia, turns 4 next September. Some critics say that money isn’t important in solving our education problems. They might find it hard to tell that to Jamaica when her kids’ schools get $10,000 less per pupil than wealthy schools.
Now is not the time for education proposals that cynically pit New Yorkers against each other, diverting taxpayer funds to private schools and privately run charters. We need an ambitious approach to education that actually leaves no child behind.
First, extend universal full-day pre-K to the entire state. Currently only 4% of our 4 year olds outside New York City are enrolled. Second: Fully fund our public schools so that every kid attends a school with adequate music, art, language and technology classes. In low-performing schools, invest in extended day, teacher-mentoring, and on-site medical and social services. Third: Let’s make SUNY and CUNY free for all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status so it’s once again the ticket out of poverty it was for my mom.
Republicans and some Democrats will say we can’t afford this investment in our kids. And we admit it’s ambitious. But this is really about choices we make as a society. Wall Street is booming. An apartment overlooking central park, in a building built with taxpayer subsidies, recently sold for 100 million dollars. Meanwhile 23% of New York’s children live below the poverty line.
It’s time to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share to fund education so all our kids have opportunity. Governor: Let’s roll back the estate tax and bank tax cuts you passed in your first term. Return the Millionaire’s Tax to the higher 2009 levels. Stop giving unjustifiable subsidies to developers and businesses. Let’s remember: Education is a good investment; taxpayer subsidies for $100 million condos isn’t.
In the area of criminal justice. We applaud the governor’s proposal to stop treating youth offenders ages 16 and 17 as adults. But the Eric Garner decision has shaken faith in the guarantee of equal justice. We believe black lives matter. The governor can show they do by appointing a special prosecutor for complaints of excessive police force against civilians.
Finally, let’s look to the future: On October 29th 2012, Kalin Callaghan, her husband Kaliem Harper and their two children watched the waves from Superstorm Sandy flood their apartment building in Rockaway Queens. They had to move in with Kalin’s parents and lost months of work. But they didn’t give up. This past September, they marched with 400,000 others in the People’s Climate March calling on elected officials to fight climate change and create good, clean energy jobs.
We applaud the Governor’s decision to ban fracking. But averting disaster isn’t enough. Recently the Long Island Power Authority rejected a bipartisan plan for offshore wind energy that would have created hundreds of good union jobs. The governor can and should reverse this decision. And he shouldn’t stop there. Engineers from Stanford University estimate that New York can create more than 250,000 jobs by investing in renewable energy and conservation.
That’s not all we hope to do to make New York work for all of us. Paid sick days statewide, and paid family leave too. Universal voter registration. Public financing of elections. Strengthening affordable housing laws. And more.
Most New Yorkers know that something is wrong in Albany and they know what it is — the voices of working families are drowned out by wealthy interests that make enormous campaign contribution. The Working Families Party calls on the governor and all elected officials — Democrats & Republicans — to put working families first. Let’s give New Yorkers a minimum wage they can live on. Give every child the best free public education we can from pre-k through college. Ensure equal justice in every community. And let’s create the clean energy jobs that will employ a generation of New Yorkers. Together, we can build a New York that works for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected.