March 07, 2017

NYSUT activists press for greater state investment – and new revenue to pay for it

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT Communications
committee of 100
Caption: Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Standing in the center of the noisy mass of coalition partners and activists overflowing the Million Dollar Staircase in the state Capitol, Andy Pallotta looked up to the ceiling with a smile and said: “It’s great to be here among friends, which doesn’t always happen in this building. … My wish is that all of us here would be able to pay the millionaire’s tax! It’s on my bucket list!”

The stone walls echoed with cheers.

Pallotta, NYSUT’s executive vice president, and NYSUT local union leaders joined progressive leaders from Stronger Economy for All, Citizen Action, the Fiscal Policy Institute and more to demonstrate two ways state lawmakers and the governor could generate enough additional revenue to meet the state’s needs.

NYSUT is backing legislation in the Assembly to extend AND expand the “millionaire’s tax,” moves that would increase state revenue by $5.6 billion. The union also supports a two-house initiative to close the “carried-interest loophole” that solely benefits hedge-fund managers and private equity partners while costing taxpayers some $3.5 billion a year in tax revenue that could be used to expand programs that support students and middle class families.

In this annual ritual known as the union's Committee of 100 Advocacy Days, NYSUT activists seek more financial support from the state for schools, colleges and hospitals. When lawmakers ask, “Where will we get the money?” these two programs are the answer, Pallotta told the nearly 600 members who gathered Monday night for the annual grassroots lobby day.

Tuesday morning, classroom teachers, college faculty and professionals, and other educators fanned out for meetings with local legislators. They pressed for a $2.1 billion increase in school aid, the same level of funding called for by the Regents; a strong, multi-year investment in SUNY, CUNY and the state’s community colleges; and restoration in state subsidies to SUNY hospitals, among other priorities.

“There’s a choice to be made this year – providing tax breaks to millionaires or funding public education and supporting middle class families,” NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said in a statement.

“Wall Street financiers shouldn’t get preferential treatment on their taxes,” said Pallotta. “Their income should be taxed the same as income earned by retail clerks, nurses and elementary school teachers. For too long, the wealthy elite have exploited the carried interest loophole to avoid paying their fair share in taxes, and that has deprived public schools and colleges of the funding they need. This year, Albany must act to close this loophole and make our tax system fairer and more progressive.”