Cuomo budget draws complaints from progressive groups

Posted at: 01/22/2014 4:29 PM
Updated at: 01/22/2014 6:29 PM
By: Bill Lambdin

ALBANY - They stood outside the State Senate chamber, but their complaints were directed a floor below, to the Governor's office.

"Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Schenectady, Utica, nearly half or over half of the children are living in poverty right now," said Ron Deutsch of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness. "We also have record hunger and record homelessness. We have significant unemployment that we need to deal with."

Advocates complain the Governor's budget proposals don't do enough to help needy New Yorkers, but seek to give a billion dollars in tax breaks to the richest individuals and the biggest corporations and banks.

"We'll all be working all across the state to ask lawmakers to put the middle class in front of millionaires," said Michael Kink of the Strong Economy for All Coalition.

These activists say the Governor's proposals double down on tax cuts.

"The budget proposed yesterday by the Cuomo administration is deeply, deeply disappointing," said Bob Master, Legislative and Political Director of the Communications Workers of America, District One. "Instead of moving aggressively to rectify these historic levels of inequality, it doubles down on tax cuts for Wall Street and for the richest people in the state."

Earlier Wednesday, advocates for education funding increases were joined by Capital Region Democratic legislators and three area school superintendents.

Larry Spring is Superintendent of the Schenectady school district.

He says the state is offering Schenectady just 54 per cent of what a fair formula would provide.

"His (Governor Cuomo's) values in action show that he is very willing to put poor, black and Latino students on the back burner and encourage a system that persists in second class education for those students," Spring said. 

Advocates complain the state still hasn't satisfied court-sanctioned agreements to improve payments to some poor districts.

Local Democratic legislators say this year's budget risks pitting one good idea against another in a fight over inadequate funding.

"I was thinking this morning I must still be very, very new because I made the mistake of really getting my hopes up this year," said Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D - Albany).

The Governor argues New York spends a large amount at the state and local levels to pay for schools.

He presented the four per cent state budget increase for education as good news, but advocates say with rising pension, utility and other costs, it's not enough to prevent further reductions in staff and elimination of important school programs.

"The school aid dollars though are simply devastating," said Billy Easton of the Alliance for Quality Education.