Saturday, January 29, 2011

Green Party’s Hawkins Challenges Cuomo’s Alice in Wonderland Approach to Budget

Hawkins Opposes Cuomo’s Proposals for Tax Cuts to the Rich, Job Cuts

Says Single Payer Health Care is the Solution to Medicaid

HEMPSTEAD, NY - OCTOBER 18: Howie Hawkins of t...

Howie Hawkins, the former Green Party candidate for Governor, said today that Cuomo’s proposals to resolve the state’s alleged $9 billion state budget deficit by giving a $5 billion tax cut for the wealthy and laying off more than 10,000 state workers was doomed to failure and would be rejected by state lawmakers.

Hawkins challenged Cuomo’s claim of transparency, saying Cuomo’s penchant for micromanaging was freezing out the public and was at least partially to blame for Cuomo’s inability to attract qualified Commissioners and senior staff. Most of his Cabinet remains unfilled a month into his administration.

“Cuomo may have lowered the drawbridge to Fort Pataki but the King and his Court have retreated behind closed doors in the inner sanctum. Only the rich and powerful are granted an audience. You don’t even know who the budget director is. If advocates want to meet with even middle level staff, they need the approval of the boys in the back room,” noted Hawkins. “Even the so-called ethics reform and public campaign financing are being negotiated behind closed doors, without much sunshine.”

Hawkins cited Cuomo’s so-called Medicaid Restructuring Commission as an example of where special interests were given a front row seat by the Cuomo administration while consumers and the general public were left out in the cold. Medicaid is by far the biggest part of the state budget.

“The biggest problem with Medicaid is the out of control costs of the overall health care system. Despite the fact that the excessive profits, waste and inefficiencies of health insurance are the major reasons why our health care system performs so poorly despite spending far more money than other country, national Democrats recently decided to increase the power and central role of private insurance. If New York wants to control our health care budget, they need to follow the example of Vermont, which is trying to eliminate private insurance and control costs by moving to a single payer system,” said Hawkins.

The Primary Care Coalition in NY estimates that overall state spending on health care could be reduced by $10 billion (or 6% of the total bill) through enhanced access to modern, coordinated primary care. Much of the spending on expensive in-patient care and medical treatments could be reduced or eliminated if robust primary care were available in every community. Achieving this can best be accomplished by the kind of coordinated planning environment that a unified single payer system would make possible.

A state funded study of various universal health care systems recently concluded that a single payer system would lower New York’s health care costs by $28 billion annually by 2018 compared to the insurance mandate system just enacted by Congress. A recent Vermont study came to the same conclusion in that state, leading the Governor to push for adoption of a single payer system.

Hawkins did say that he was encouraged by Cuomo’s acknowledgement in the State of the State address that prisons should not be a job development program. Downsizing the state’s prison system to reflect the decline in the prison population and increased support for work release programs would save the state more than $300 million according to the Correctional Association. Hawkins would save additional money by diverting more non-violent offenders out of prisons into community restitution and ending the War on Drugs by decriminalizing or legalizing drug possession and focusing on drug treatment for addicts. The Correctional Association estimates that just repealing (not reforming) the Rockefeller Drug Laws alone would save $155 million per year.

Hawkins faulted both Cuomo and President Obama for failing to acknowledge that the country is in the midst of a great recession with poverty and unemployment at crisis levels.

“We need jobs now, not more promises of corporate subsidies and trickle down economics. New York should take the $14 billion we rebate to Wall Street speculators from the stock sales tax and invest that in a WPA style jobs program to provide half a million jobs right now for New Yorkers. Instead of more tax cuts for the wealthy, we should recapture the tax windfall they just got from Obama and balance the state budget. We should raise the state minimum wage to $10 an hour to stimulate the economy by putting more money into the hands of working people who will spend in buying local services and goods,” added Hawkins, a co-chair of the state Green Party.

Cuomo is seeking to give a $5 billion tax cut to the state’s wealthiest residents by ending the personal income tax surcharge on high incomes that was enacted by state lawmakers two years ago. Hawkins and the Green Party would go in the opposite direction, raising the tax rate for the state’s wealthiest residents. He noted that the top 1% now receives 35% of all income in the state, up from 10% in 1980, according to a Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of state tax returns.

The Greens would also enact a carbon tax on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse emissions while raising funds to invest in clean energy technology, green jobs, and a carbon-free economy within a decade.

“It is time for Wall Street to start bailing out Main Street,” said Peter LaVenia, the other state party co-chair.

The Greens would provide local property tax relief through an expanded property tax circuit breaker; a state takeover of local Medicaid costs in conjunction with a state single payer program; and increasing local revenue sharing to comply with existing state law of 8% of state revenues.

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