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Charles Barron: Why I spoke out at Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address

Assemblyman Charles Barron | 1/21/2016, midnight
Assemblyman Charles Barron opens up on speaking out during the governor's State of the State address.
Assemblyman Charles Barron

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” I could not sit through another Gov. Cuomo State of the State address and listen to the fabrication, distortions and empty rhetoric without lifting my voice in protest. Let’s check out the hypocrisy in Cuomo’s address by contrasting Cuomo’s “spin” versus “reality.”

Cuomo’s spin: “It is also essential that our school districts have the necessary funds to do the job. I propose for this two-year cycle, $2.1 billion increase, to $25 billion, the highest total spending on education in the history of New York State.”

The reality: There is no two-year budget cycle. In reality the budget is negotiated yearly. Therefore his $2.1 billion increase is really $960 million for this year’s budget. This amount falls far short of the $2.4 billion increase the New York State Board of Regents recommended and far short of the $2.9 billion the Alliance for Quality Education recommended.

Cuomo’s spin: When Cuomo was running for governor in 2010, he said, “I think the inequity in education is probably the civil rights issue of our time. There are two education systems in this state. Not public or private, one for the rich and one for the poor and they are both public systems.” Cuomo said, “The state is supposed to equalize or come close to equalizing with its funding. That’s the Campaign for Fiscal Equity that the state is yet to fully fund.” That was then; this is now!

The reality: The foundation aid is the funding formula that was designed to resolve the Campaign for Fiscal Equity funding. The governor’s 2016-17 budget includes only $266 million for foundation aid, despite the fact that the state owes $4.4 billion in foundation aid to schools statewide. NYC is owed $2 billion in unpaid CFE money but would only get $169 million in foundation aid.

Cuomo’s spin: On the homeless situation, Gov. Cuomo claims to care so much for the homeless that he wanted the police to force them off of the streets during the winter cold. Many homeless individuals said that they would rather face the bitter cold of winter than the dangerous inhumane conditions in the shelters.

The reality: In 2011-2012, Gov. Cuomo cut $92 million from the Advantage program for the homeless. This money would have given the homeless rent subsidies to find permanent housing. More than 14,000 homeless individuals suffered because of this cut. So, the governor cuts their program and forces them onto the streets, and then wants the police to force them off the streets. This policy is a hypocritical contradiction!

Cuomo’s spin: The governor was given big kudos for appointing the New York State attorney general as “special” prosecutor for one year in police cases when deadly force is used.

The reality: For years, activists have been calling for a permanent “independent” prosecutor in police cases when deadly force is used. One year, Governor? You really think the police will stop abusing us after this year? This one is really absurd!

I could go on and on highlighting the governor’s spins versus the reality that the people of the State of New York are forced to live with regarding the contradictions of the governor’s State of the State address and his actual budget, but I think you get my point. Whereas an overwhelming majority of emails, texts and phone calls were positive and supportive of my actions and issues, some said this occasion was neither the time nor the place. Dr. King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” Long live the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Forward ever!

Assemblyman Charles Barron