January 28, 2009

Working Families Party: Gov's cuts hit schools, and everything else

Source: Working Families Party

The following round-up of state budget news appears in the latest e-newsletter of the Working Families Party. Learn more online at workingfamiliesparty.org.

Gov's cuts hit schools, and everything else

Even as President Obama and Congress work toward a stimulus package that will include billions in aid for education, Governor Paterson's budget cuts threaten to undo their work and more:

  • In Rochester, the Democrat and Chronicle reports city schools are planning to lay off 500 staff to close a $60 million budget hole. Deputy Superintendent for Administration John Scanlan summed it up: "Anything is on the table."
  • Outside Rochester in Greece, the D & C reports the suburban Greece Central District alone is looking at laying off up 100 staff, including more than 50 teachers.
  • In Syracuse, the Post-Standard says the proposed federal funding is a welcome relief, but not nearly enough to prevent hundreds of layoffs there.
  • The Buffalo News quotes Buffalo School Superintendent James Williams on the effects of the Governor's cuts: "If you [translated] that into people, you're talking about 900 to 1,000 [jobs]. You'd dismantle the system. There's no way we could operate that way."
  • Outside Buffalo, school districts are already planning to raise property taxes in order to save their schools. But it's not just education that's suffering. The Governor slash-and-burn budget will affect programs and agencies that touch nearly every aspect of our society. His stubborn refusal to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes threatens not just the most vulnerable, but the institutions and public goods that make New York what it is:
  • The Buffalo News highlights the devastating impact to zoos and botanical gardens, which would see literally all of their state funding disappear if the Governor gets his way.
  • The Post-Standard highlights service cuts and far increases for Syracuse's Centro bus system, which is facing a $1.3 million cut in state aid thanks to the Governor's budget.
  • Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the Capitol yesterday, decrying the Governor's move to cut monthly payments to 600,000 disabled New Yorkers.
  • Gannett reports that the Governor's austerity budget will also mean a three year delay in a plan to move mentally ill prison inmates from solitary confinement, where according to experts their condition rapidly declines.

Given the devastation the Governor is proposing, it's no wonder that as the Legislative Gazette notes, polls show overwhelming support for asking the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes. Our own Dan Cantor notes: "Today's Siena poll confirms what we already knew, there's a better choice and most New Yorkers know it. By asking the wealthy to give back some of the generous tax cuts they've received over the last 30 years, we can prevent some of the governor's most damaging cuts and make our tax system fairer. But until we ask the rich to pay their share in taxes, it's working families who'll be shouldering the burden of state's fiscal crisis"

Thankfully, some legislators get the message. Sen. Eric Schneiderman was on the John Gambling Show talking some sense on tax fairness and writing in a letter to the editor of the Daily News: "[T]here is no dispute that wealthy New Yorkers pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than the middle class. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the richest 20% of New Yorkers now pay 6.5% of their income in state and local taxes, while those in the middle pay 11.6% of their wages. The Fair Share Tax Reform bill would begin to redress this injustice, ensuring that the wealthiest New Yorkers pay their fair share to close our state's budget gap."

Source: Working Families Party