Groups rally in Hauppauge Against Cuomo Budget

From Newsday:

Labor and liberal groups rallied in Hauppauge Thursday afternoon, protesting portions of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget as a boon to the wealthy.

“We’re here because we’re angry about the governor’s proposal to benefit the rich and corporations and make the rest of us pay,” said Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. She said portions of Cuomo’s budget would exacerbate income inequality in New York State.

Two dozen members of the groups held signs at the brief news conference in front of the New York State Office Building in Hauppauge.

Cuomo’s office declined to comment Thursday.

The coalition is protesting three parts of Cuomo’s budget: reduction of the estate tax, a provision the coalition said would reduce taxes on banks and a proposal to freeze property taxes by encouraging consolidation of local government services.

“When you talk about consolidating services, it usually means someone is laid off because someone else is doing the job,” said Nick LaMorte, Long Island regional president of the CSEA, the region’s large public employee union.

Tyson said the tax cuts for the wealthy would be paid for by taxes on the middle class or cuts to services that are relied on by the wealthy.

Tyson said the wealthy don’t need help. “Do we need help?” she asked the crowd. A woman at a nearby bus stop shouted, “That’s why we’re taking the bus.”

Message to Lawmakers: Stick with What Works for Youngest New Yorkers

By: Mike Clifford, Public News Service – NY

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been using competitive grants to spur competition among school districts, but today lawmakers are being urged to not rely on that approach for early education funding. The jury is out on competitive grants, according to Danielle Asher, early childhood education campaign coordinator with the Long Island Progressive Coalition; she says maybe they’ll work, maybe not.

That’s why Asher says it’s dangerous to use that system to fund early education programs, which she says have been proved to save the state money and provide a quality education.

“It is proven to reduce grade repetition and disciplinary referrals, special education costs; it will save the state $22 million to $32 million, so we need to invest in Pre-K programs.”

Asher is one of the more than 100 parents, teachers and advocates traveling to Albany to urge lawmakers to restore $53 million in early education funding to the general fund. The Board of Regents also backs that approach, while Governor Cuomo lumped funding for early education into $250 million in competitive grants in his executive budget.

Currently, many of New York’s youngest children are on waiting lists to get into early-learning programs, according to Marsha Basloe, executive director of the Early Care and Learning Council. She says that’s a shame, because decades worth of studies show these programs work.

“Students that participate in quality early-care and learning programs are far more likely to attend college and get higher-paying jobs; avoid teen pregnancy; avoid welfare dependency; avoid delinquency and/or crime.”

Basloe plans to meet with lawmakers to talk about the need to find $20 million to fund a Quality Stars program to rate local early education programs.

A news briefing is planned for 11 a.m. at the Legislative Office Building.

A report is at More on the QUALITYstarsNY program is at

North and Central Merrick Community Association Takes on Tax Discussion

You can consolidate credit cards, student loans or even thoughts and ideas, so why not consolidate special taxing districts?

This is the question many North and Central Merrick residents asked and formed a discussion about it at the North Merrick and Central Community Association meeting at the North Merrick Library on Thursday.

The meeting featured a presentation by RESD (short for Residents for Efficient Special Districts) member Laura Mallay and information from Serena Alfieri, the Long Island Progressive Coalition’s Government Efficiency Project Coordinator.  

A special taxing district is a local unit of government that provides a single service such as sanitation, water provision and fire services, according to the Long Island Progressive Coalition. There are an estimated 300 of such districts in Nassau County.  

“One of the thing Special Taxing Districts will tell you is that they represent local control, but on average 1 to 3 percent of eligible voters in the districts tend to vote,” Mallay said. “There are special taxing district elections every month of the year except for one and really, most residents are unaware of what special taxing districts elections even are.”

There are 213 special taxing districts with the power to raise taxes on Nassau County homeowners with no limits. RESD’s solution to making the districts less corrupt and more efficient are:

  • Consolidate special taxing districts where appropriate
  • Create budget oversight and review guidelines
  • Require public disclosure of budgets
  • Have unified Election Days for special taxing districts
  • Make special taxing district commissioners volunteers

“For the most part, Long Island was farmland more than 100 years ago and as the communities developed, residents needed to provide services so these special districts were formed and they provided what we needed,” Mallay explained. “As we’ve maxed out and there’s no room for growth, there is no additional tax base coming into these special taxing districts and it was really, just, overwhelming.”

Mallay also suggested that residents work together to lower their property taxes by joining RESD, writing the local elected officials, or writing a letter to the editor of the local paper, but most importantly to vote in the Special Taxing District elections.

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“We have four elementary school districts — North Bellmore, Bellmore, North Merrick and Merrick — and all get sent to one central high school district, the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District,” explained Claudia Borecky, president of the North and Central Merrick Community Association.  “People have talked about consolidating to maybe just a Merrick, maybe just a Bellmore.”

Mally said the Merrick school district consolidation issue tends to come up quite a bit at other area meetings she has attended and stressed, “we work with individuals that come to us with issues, we help to educate, we help to notify [the public]. Everybody should be voting, everybody should be participating, it should not be special interest running the show.”

NY Budget Agreement Reactions

(WAMC)Late Sunday afternoon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced they had come to an agreement on a budget that will close the state’s 10 Billion dollar deficit. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

The new budget promises to be an early budget – one Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver calls “strong and firmly grounded in reality.” New York’s budgets are notorious for being late: at one point for 20 consecutive years — and Governor Cuomo says having an on-time budget is a “big deal.” Cuomo promises the budgets “real policy initiatives” will make a striking difference… but the swift agreement caught some off guard and apprehensive. Senior Advocate Gloria Wilson of Manhattan-based “Community Voices Heard” is concerned about how the budget will impact older New Yorkers. While Cuomo maintains he is putting the state on a better financial trajectory, Lisa Tyson with the Long Island Progressive Coalition says the tentative agreement still tilts too far in favor of the wealthy. On the other side of the issue, Michael Moran, Director of Communications for the Business Council Of New York State, praises the budget as one that actually puts the state on the path to prosperity and growth.

90% of voters surveyed in a Siena Poll released Monday said an on-time budget was important – Pollster Steve Greenberg says Governor Cuomo is the big winner coming out of this budget: “Voters think an on-time budget is important by a nine-to-one margin.” James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute says women and children make up 77 percent of New York’s poor. A new Institute report finds deep cuts to human services in Governor’s Cuomo’s budget would drive some women and children deeper into poverty, reducing opportunities to move up, and destabilizing those already struggling to get by. Now that it’s been presented, Governor Cuomo’s $132.5 billion state budget deal awaits legislative approval.

1200 Parents and Students Rally Against Governor Cuomo’s $1.5 Billion in Education Cuts

(Albany, N.Y.) 1200 parents and students from across the state were joined by elected officials, clergy, teachers and community organizations in a rally against the proposal by Governor Cuomo to enact $1.5 billion in cuts to schools combined with $4.6 billion in tax cuts for wealthy New Yorkers. The rally, at the Albany Armory, was followed by a march to the Capitol and Legislative Office Building and lobby visits with legislators. Governor Cuomo’s cuts are the largest ever proposed in the history of New York State, the tax cuts for the state’s highest income earners are supported by the Senate Republican Majority as well as the Governor. Polls show that three-quarters of New Yorkers oppose the education cuts and two-thirds of New Yorkers oppose tax cuts for high income earners.  If the cuts are enacted, schools across the state will need to get rid of thousands of teachers, guidance counselors and librarians, cut arts, sports, music, college and career prep courses and basic educational services.  School closings are also proposed in districts across the state as a result of the proposed cuts.  The rally was sponsored by the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, New York Communities for Change, New York City Coalition for Educational Justice, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Metro Justice of Rochester, Make the Road New York, and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity.

“Education is the most fundamental obligation government has to society’s children. If we have to move mountains to make sure our children have a quality education, then that’s what we’ll do. I’m asking ALL elected officials to step up and uphold what the Campaign for Fiscal Equity is all about. A budget crisis is never an excuse to turn our backs on our kids,” said New York Council Education Chairman Robert Jackson, Lead Plaintiff in Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

“The Governor’s budget is a travesty for New York’s students, particularly poor children and children of color who have been systematically disadvantaged for years.  It strips away the initial investments of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity promise and makes it significantly harder for them to receive their Constitutional right to an opportunity to learn,” said Dr. John Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
“Overwhelmingly New Yorkers disagree with Governor Cuomo’s record setting cuts to schools and with the plan by the Governor and the Senate Majority to give the wealthiest New Yorkers a tax cut,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “Tax cuts for the rich, and massive school cuts for our kids? It’s nonsensical.”

 “A $24 million cut to Buffalo City schools will mean that our district may be forced to eliminate instruction to students in their native language, a program offered by bilingual aides to %12 of students.  Too many children that rely heavily on this and other programs to achieve their dreams of on-time graduation will be let down if Governor Cuomo’s tax break to the wealthy makes it in the final budget,” said Bryon McIntyre, of Citizen Action of New York, a parent from Buffalo.

 ”It’s irresponsible for the Governor to balance the budget on the backs of those of us who need funding the most, while allowing the wealthiest New Yorkers continue to ride the wave of prosperity. We demand that he make them pay their fair share so that teachers can keep their jobs and resources and programs can be provided for our children so they can be college and career ready!” said Ocynthia Williams, a New York City parent and member of the Coalition for Educational Justice.

 “The governor’s education budget proposals are well far off from what most of us believe and know to be right for our children.  I am optimistic however that this governor, which we elected, will listen, and he will get our message, which we must deliver loud and clear, I do believe we have a governor who understands the value of a sound education, and will provide the appropriate funding to make sure our children really do not get left behind,” said Assemblyman N. Nick Perry of Brooklyn, Deputy Majority Leader and Chairman of the NYS Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators.  “We must commit to our children from pre-K through college.  I stand together with the many concerned parents that traveled to our state capital today, and assure them that I will tenaciously advocate on their behalf and work towards passing an education budget that provides every single one of our children with not just a sound, basic education – but a first-class, quality education that will help them be successful in life and firmly plant their feet on the path to success.”

“Working families and communities of color like the ones I represent in the Bronx are being disproportionately impacted by proposed budget cuts to education funding and crucial state services. They are the ones that send their children to public schools and depend on English as a second language programs and special education programs that are facing drastic cuts. My neighbors understand the need to sacrifice during tough times, but we cannot ask them to bear the brunt of these budget cuts and then give a tax cut to the wealthiest New Yorkers. We have to work toward a budget that is about shared responsibility and shared sacrifice – minimizing cuts to education funding,” said Senator Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx.

“Last year’s massive education budget cuts meant a loss of lost teachers, educational staff and programs that students need to be college and career ready, such as after school, tutoring, math, reading and English as a second language. Now, Governor Cuomo’s budget proposes to take an additional $1.5 billion from school children. How much more can we take and still expect our students to excel?” said Marie Pierre, New York Communities for Change board member.

“I am delighted to join with other religious leaders in support of the AQE and CEJ fight to challenge the Governor and legislators that the state’s financial crises should not be solved by destroying the communities that are most in need and vulnerable.  We urge Albany legislators not to cut Education, Senior Services and Healthcare,” said Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Churches United to Save and Heal.

“It is unthinkable that we would continue to break the promise we made in 2007 to our schools and the children they teach to properly fund our low-and middle-income districts in order to give the multi-millionaires and billionaires of our state a tax break. That new yacht can wait — kindergarten only happens once. Most New Yorkers are clear on what’s more important,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton of Ithaca.

“When politicians demagogue about public servants, their pensions, collective bargaining or other hard earned benefits, it is our democracy that is being attacked. This must stop. Tax the rich!” said Senator Bill Perkins of Manhattan.

“Allowing the rich to benefit at the expense of school children will mean that so many of our children will face heart break while the rich welcome a $1 billion tax break and continue to become wealthy.  The state budget should be balanced in a way that allows everyone to pay their fair share and the only way to do this is to extend the millionaire’s tax,” said Javier Valdés, Deputy Director Make the Road the Road New York.

“With a $1.5 billion cut in aid to schools, now is not the time for a tax cut for the state’s wealthiest,” said Senator Jose Peralta of Queens.  “This is not about creating a new tax or raising taxes.  This is about shared sacrifice.  Balancing the budget will require many difficult choices.  Extending the surcharge will not be one of them.”

“We need to make sure that people in every community on Long Island realize how damaging these cuts will be to their children. Every district is looking at cuts. In some districts the students will be losing an opportunity for a second language. Others it will mean no pre-k program at all. What will happen to my granddaughter when there is no program offered for her?” said Amparo Sadler, Central Islip grandmother and Long Island Progressive Coalition member.

“The Committee to Save NY has it backwards. The best investment we can make is in the people of NY, especially our children. Give our kids the education they need and our communities, and all of NY, will flourish. Committee to Save NY?   Real Estate moguls and Wall St. Executives?   I am not impressed. I would be more impressed if they were saying, ‘Yes. These are tough times and we will help. We believe in the people of NY.’ When times are tough, everyone has to pull together. That includes the wealthiest among us. What makes this state great is the belief in the value of every New Yorker, and the potential for each person to do great things, a good education is key to that,” said Cathy Fahey, 7th Ward Councilmember, Albany.

Hundreds of LI teachers rally against proposed school aid cuts

(02/18/11) FARMINGVILLE – Hundreds of Long Island teachers, parents and students rallied last night at Sachem East High School against the governor’s proposed school aid cuts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) has proposed slashing school aid by $1.5 billion.

Long Island schools would see $200 million less in state aid under Cuomo’s budget. Multiple schools districts have already warned teachers of drastic layoffs and program cuts.

“Our schools shouldn’t have to balance the state budget on their backs,” says Danielle Asher, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) says he’ll fight to make the cuts as painless as possible, but with a $10 billion state deficit, he warns that significant cuts in education are inevitable.

The Perfect Storm of State Disaster- Education Cuts

August 27th, 2010 7:18 pm ET

“The perfect storm of state disaster” is what state assemblyman Tom Alfano calls the governor’s proposed budget for schools.  This is a very apt statement, whether you are a parent of a child in a school on Long Island or a teacher.  This statement was made on December 19, 2008 in the Floral Dispatch, online edition.  However, this statement still holds true today as well.  Alfano also stated in his op-ed that these cuts would impact such areas in education as bigger class sizes, cuts in technology, and special education.

In order to decrease the gap in funding versus educational needs, New York attempted to win The Race to the Top.  According to a report by Newsday, New York State went from also-ran to winner in the federal Race To The Top competition, officials said.  New York is one of nine states splitting $3.3 billion.  Timothy Kremer of the state School Boards Association states that “it will not replace the $1.4-billion cut in school aid that forced some school districts to lay off teachers, close schools and cut programs.”

Long Island schools are showing their disagreement with state cuts.  One such district is in Wyandanch had fifty community residents on Saturday August 14, 2010 participate in a rally lad by local activists and the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a regional volunteer group.  Ironically when the state raised passing standards on its tests last month, the number of failed students soared – in Wyandanch and island wide.  So with the passing test score being increased as well as class sizes rising due to budget cuts, students will suffer.  New York state is going to receive some financial help from the federal government of $26 billion.  $607 million of that money – equivalent to more than 40 percent of state-aid cuts will go to New York.  But Albany authorities have not yet announced how the money will be distributed to schools.

Even with all of these cuts, there is still a silver-lining to this cloud.  People are still choosing to teach, and many of them return to the schools they went through.  Michael Arnone returned to teach third grad in the same classroom he had third grade in Glen Cove.  Sari Goldberg Alfano of Levittown returned to her elementary school as well to teach.  These teachers and teachers like them still believe in our education system here in Long Island, and so should you.

Civic Groups Demand Audits of Special Districts

By Ryan Bonner

Residents gathered outside the office of County Comptroller George Maragos this afternoon to push for continued oversight of local tax districts.
A host of civic groups protested outside the office of Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos this afternoon demanding that he keep up audits of special tax districts conducted in recent years.

Maragos, elected in November, released a statement last week announcing that his office “would not be advocating broad consolidation or dissolution of special districts.”

Maragos has said he will not conduct any new audits of special districts this year.

“Telling them that you won’t audit them for a year is like telling the mice that the cat is leaving for the year,” Merrick resident Derek Donnelly said of Maragos’ decision to instead focus on digging the county out of a $250 million deficit.

Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, speaking before the small crowd gathered in Mineola said of Maragos: “He’s basically saying ‘I’m not going to do my job.’ We the taxpayers need help now, we can’t wait any longer.”

Members of Residents for Efficient Special Districts and Long Islanders for Educational Reform were also on hand this afternoon.

Maragos’ predecessor, Howard Weitzman, conducted several audits of special districts, which provide services such as water, sanitation and fire protection. Maragos acknowledged that many of those audits exposed corruption and mismanagement, but he said it was “not appropriate for the previous comptroller to advocate broad consolidation across the county.”

“I’ve indicated that my policy would be to leave it up to local taxpayers to decide which districts are not delivering services or delivering value,” Maragos said. “If there is a request to provide [copies of previous] reports, we will do so, but the comptroller’s office is not leading the charge.”

State legislation that went into effect on March 21 allows the consolidation or dissolution of special districts through either a resolution of the special districts’ governing body, a vote of the Nassau County Legislature or a petition of voters in the district, signed by 10 percent, or 5,000 registered voters, whichever is less.

Residents would then need to approve the proposed changes with a majority vote in either a general or special election.

Bellmore resident Stu Weinstein said he believed consolidation of special districts would save taxpayers’ money.

“You shouldn’t consolidate just for consolidation sake,” said Weinstein, president of the Town of Hempstead Civic Council. “Not every one [special district] needs to be consolidated, but when you analyze the numbers and come up with a positive result, it makes sense.”

Maragos said his office may revisit the special district issue next year, but for now, he said he’s focused on streamlining county government and working toward a balanced budget.

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“The county is run so inefficient now, you can’t convince me we can do any better,” he said of the county taking over special districts. “That’s why we have a $250 million deficit.”
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School aid cuts may affect at-risk LI schools

News 12
(01/20/10) WYANDANCH – Gov. David Paterson’s budget proposal includes a cut to school aid, which may hit some of Long Island’s already underfunded schools hard.

The Long Island Progressive Coalition criticized the proposal, insisting the cuts will negatively impact children’s education. Denise Gibbs, the assistant superintendent at Wyandanch schools, says the district was already forced to cut its reading program, security and custodial workers last year.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-Northport) says he wants to make sure the school cuts are evenly spread throughout the state.

The State Legislature must first vote on the budget before cuts go into effect.

LIPC Board Member's Op-Ed About NYS Budget

LIPC Board Member David Sprintzen had an Op-Ed published in the Friday, April 3rd edition of Newsday.

Here is the article:

Budget’s a reasonable compromise in tough times


David A. Sprintzen is an emeritus philosophy professor at C.W. Post and founder of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

We’ve heard much bemoaning the state’s effort to close a record $16-billion budget deficit, as each special interest complains about its impact on them.

Business leaders attack the increased tax on the wealthy and predict job losses and capital flight. Politicians and the press criticize both tax increases and cuts in service. But few offer detailed alternatives to maintain basic services, cushion the economic downturn, and close the state deficit, itself the result of the Wall Street crash and the national recession.

Yes, this budget is far from perfect, but it does a reasonable job of “sharing the pain,” as the governor says, at minimal cost to the Long Island economy. It balances cuts to vital services with modest tax increases.

The budget cuts more than $5 billion in state spending. While, due to the federal stimulus, schools on Long Island won’t be seeing the cuts next year they had recently feared, they also won’t be getting increases they once had planned on – particularly some struggling districts. There are also cuts in health care.

In fact, with the help of the federal stimulus money, this week’s deal increases spending paid for by state taxpayers by just 1 percent – well below the rate of inflation.

At the same time, the budget also recognizes that significantly slashing essential services like health care, education, and aid for seniors and the disabled will do more harm than good during a deep economic downturn. Many hardworking New Yorkers who never needed help during the boom years are now finding themselves forced to seek assistance for the first time.

The agencies and organizations serving them will still have to do more with less – but this budget averts the most drastic cutbacks by asking those who are still financially comfortable to pay their fair share.

For years, New York’s economic elite has been allowed to skate along, paying the same marginal income tax rate as individuals earning just $40,000 per year. These incredible tax breaks were pushed through by Gov. George Pataki when Wall Street was raking in billions. Now that the financial industry has led our nation’s economy off a cliff, it’s time for the wealthier New Yorkers to be responsible again.

This budget simply restores a small amount of progressivity to New York’s income tax by adding new brackets for the wealthiest 3.5 percent of the state’s population. While that percentage will be somewhat higher on Long Island, still, the majority of families here won’t be affected.

This measure acknowledges that someone earning $300,000 or $500,000 per year should pay a slightly higher marginal tax than middle and working class families. That higher rate only applies to net income in excess of $300,000 (or $200,000 for single-filers). Who among us – the other 90-plus percent of the population on Long Island – would not gladly pay that additional amount if we could earn more than $300,000?

Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics, recently explained that such an increase in the tax on the wealthiest is the least damaging way to balance state budgets during recessions.

In contrast, cuts in government spending on goods and services that are produced locally (like education and health care) and cuts in transfer payments to lower-income families, are most damaging to the economy, since they come closest to taking dollar for dollar out of the local economy.

If working-class New Yorkers can afford more crowded classrooms, longer waits at emergency rooms and extra nuisance fees, surely our richest residents can afford this income tax increase of just 1 or 2 percentage points. Our highest tax rate will be comparable to that of neighboring New Jersey, and even opponents of this tax measure concede that few of our wealthy citizens will actually leave.

As with any good compromise, this budget doesn’t make anyone completely happy. Poor school districts are harmed and too many hospitals will have to strain to give their patients the care they need.

But this deal stands on a strong foundation of shared sacrifice. It’s a reasonable compromise in extremely difficult circumstances accomplished by Gov. David A. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. It asks all New Yorkers to give up a little so that none will have to lose too much.
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