Monday, November 01, 2010

Howie Hawkins Says Vote for the Green Prosperity Program, Not Cuomo’s Austerity Plan

(Rochester) Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, called today for New York voters to “support the Hawkins Prosperity Plan rather than the Cuomo-Duffy Austerity Plan.”

“The Democrats are trying to win votes by scaring people about Paladino, who is indeed a scary person – a bigoted, rich, political insider posing as an outsider. But the really scary thing is that Cuomo and Duffy have the same right-wing economic agenda as Paladino with even more explicit promises to hammer the unions. As Cuomo has told the media, Tea Partiers should vote for him because he has the same economic agenda as Paladino without insulting people. David Koch, the financial godfather of the national Tea Party movement, obviously agrees because he gave Cuomo over $50,000 in campaign contributions,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins also chided Cuomo for supporting Governor Paterson’s effort to break an agreement with state workers to avoid layoffs in exchange for a new, less generous pension tier for state workers.

Hawkins would strengthen New York’s upstate urban areas with a massive public jobs program; investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency to create a carbon free economy within a decade; 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 he would increase state revenue sharing with upstate cities as the law presently requires. Hawkins 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 has opposed Cuomo-Duffy’s call for more charter schools, mayoral control, and imposition of a property tax cap which would dry up funding for many schools.

A Hawkins administration would assist local communities in developing sustainable Green Cities by integrating environmental priorities into economic, transportation, land use, energy, housing, solid waste, and anti-sprawl policies.

Hawkins would increase state support for urban agriculture initiatives, including setting procurement standards for government purchase of local foods, expansion of community gardens, and development of agriculture infrastructure (e.g., small-scale food processing, wholesale farmers markets, retail food cooperatives in under-served neighborhoods).

“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 would 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. Hawkins said the experience in other states show that property tax caps lead to cuts in education and other essential services. He said the 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 among the states in student achievement and 49th in per student funding, Hawkins noted.

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.”

Like many upstate cities, Rochester has a poverty rate much higher rate than the rest of the country. Rochester’s poverty rate is 29.1% (for 20007), more than double the statewide average of 13.7%; for children, Rochester’s poverty rate was an incredible 43.1%, compared to 19.1% statewide. The poverty rate for Latinos was over 42%.

In addition to providing a publicly-funded job to everyone who couldn’t find one in the public sector, Hawkins would raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour.

Howie Hawkins blasted 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. Cuomo as Attorney General has put politics ahead of the law in holding that this layoffs aren’t in violation of the state’s agreement with the work force,” Hawkins stated

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.

Hawkins said he supported the creation of Empire State Housing Investment Fund to dedicate public resources to expand the supply of affordable housing and meet the needs of low income households in the state of New York. Part of the funds would support local Housing Trust Funds.

Complete Streets: Hawkins would make streets safe for bicyclists and pedestrians, not just cars. His transit investment priorities for Upstate New York would include retrofitting urban, suburban, town, and village streets for safe pedestrian and bicycle use through sidewalks, cross-walks, crossing signals, traffic calming, speed bumps, multi-use paths, street trees, pedestrian refuge medians, protected bike lanes, and other safety measures.

Hawkins noted that New York State spends fewer federal dollars on pedestrian and cyclist safety projects per capita than most other states. Ranking #44, NY spends 1% of federal funds ($0.73 per capita) on pedestrian safety, while 22.5% of New York traffic fatalities are pedestrians (over 21,000).

The dedicated funding for pedestrian and cyclist safety should focus on retrofitting existing roadways and designing new roadways for safe use by pedestrians and cyclists. The top priority for retrofitting roadways for pedestrian and cyclist safety should be for school children walking and cycling to and from school.

Urban Mass Transit: Hawkins would expand, rebuild, and electrify metropolitan bus and rail mass transit. He would cross subsidize public transport from gasoline and carbon taxes to keep fares low or free. He would prioritize access for low to moderate income communities for commuting to jobs. He would also promote free transit to downtown districts to reduce traffic and encourage compact development and walkable communities instead of sprawl.

Interurban Rails: While high-speed wide-gauge rail is getting federal support and should be encouraged, Hawkins said New York State should undertake to rebuild the interurbans, the electrified narrow gauge rails that connected virtually all the upstate cities and towns between the 1890s and 1930s.

“We should make mass transit more convenient and economical than private cars for transportation within and between all of the state’s cities,” Hawkins said

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