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Unions, activists praise Senate Dems’ ‘progressive’ proposal

Stephon Johnson | 3/16/2017, 1:02 p.m.
While much of New York State stayed at home bracing for the storm, Senate Democrats released their priorities for the ...
New York State Capitol Wikipedia

While much of New York State stayed at home bracing for the storm, Senate Democrats released their priorities for the 2016-17 State Budget. According to elected officials, the letter outlines policies and positions that would have passed if the Democrats presented a united front and didn’t have any defectors.

Some of the Democrats’ policy goals include raising the age of criminal responsibility, passing ethics reform, making college affordable and restoring funding for elementary and secondary schools.

“While the budget is primarily a financial document that allocates billions of dollars of revenue and aid for various purposes, it has also become the main policy document generated by the state and, as such, the Senate Democratic Conference proposes essential reforms and initiatives to be included in the Enacted Budget,” read the letter.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins agreed.

“The State Budget should be more than a fiscal document,” said Stewart-Cousins in a statement. “It is also an opportunity for us to enact real reforms and protections against Donald Trump’s agenda. New Yorkers deserve better than a budget full of half-measures, fake reforms and inadequate action on the issues facing our communities. The Senate Democratic proposals will provide New Yorkers with the progressive action and economic development they deserve.”

The Democrats’ agenda in the letter also included fiscal proposals, such as increased funding for homeless services, more affordable housing, creating a contingency reserve fund to lessen impact of federal cuts, rejecting proposed Title XX changes that would cut aid to senior centers and ensuring that the MTA receives full funding from owed revenues sources without budgetary sweeps.

Union leaders were quick to praise the letter.

“We applaud the Senate Democrats for standing up for a more progressive budget that gets to the heart of what New Yorkers really need, including worker protections and good jobs, affordable housing, quality public education and access to quality health care,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa in a statement. “They are priorities for working families and should be the priorities in Albany as well.”

“Our hard-earned tax dollars, as well as our jobs, should not be sent overseas, particularly when we have the best skilled workers in the world ready to fill those positions,” added Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO. “With Buy American, we will be creating good manufacturing jobs and strengthening local economies, including right here at home in New York.”

Activists also spoke highly of the Senate Democrats’ letter. Javier Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, called the Senate Democrats’ budget letter a commitment to the needs of working-class New Yorkers.

“On issues ranging from fully funding our public schools to standing up for workers’ rights and ending wage theft to expanding higher education access through the DREAM Act, this letter responds to the critical needs of our communities,” stated Valdés. “We strongly encourage Senate Majority Leader Flanagan and the rest of his conference to heed this letter and incorporate these important recommendations into the Senate’s one-house budget proposal.”