Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IDC releases its ‘Changing New York Agenda’;Dynamic policy package addresses education, housing, jobs and quality-of-life for all New Yorkers

Dynamic policy package addresses education, housing, jobs and quality-of-life for all New Yorkers

The Independent Democratic Conference on Wednesday unveiled the Changing New York Agenda, a comprehensive policy package focused on improving the lives of working- and middle-class New Yorkers across the state.

The dynamic plan shapes policy in six categories: education, employment, housing, providing for families and seniors, criminal justice reform and quality-of-life. This new, bold agenda builds on the IDC’s past visionary plans Invest New York, Affordable New York and A Blueprint for a Better New York to continue to address the most salient issues in the state.

Chief among the IDC’s proposals are:

  • College Affordability for All - With ever-rising college tuition costs, increasing Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards will help all students who reside in New York obtain a degree. By raising the income eligibility cap from $80,000 to $200,000  thousands more students will benefit from state aid. TAP awards would also become available to any resident, regardless of immigration status.

  • Raise the Age - The stain of a criminal record prevents 16- and 17-year-olds treated as adults in the justice system from leading productive lives later on. New York trails behind 48 states that treat teens as juveniles. The IDC will be working with stakeholders to craft legislation to finally raise the age in New York.

  • Made by New Yorkers - Manufacturers must stay in the state, but one reason they close up shop, taking away good-paying jobs,  is burdensome property taxes. Currently these firms receive a 20% property tax rebate, which should be increased to 100% to incentivize manufacturers staying here. The IDC also seeks to provide grants for smaller businesses looking to expand in the state and create a new, knowledge exchange program to help businesses connect with experts in the state to advance their ventures. The IDC will  push for Buy American provisions for state contracts, by working to create the Made in America Rating System (MARS) to protect American workers from unfair competition. The IDC also envisions a “Made By New Yorkers” label for products created in the state, with New York State products using the “Made in the USA” standard.

  • Accelerate the Phase-in of Foundation Aid - In response to a ruling by State Court of Appeals that New York State had underfunded its primary school system by billions of dollars, the Foundation Aid formula was created in FY 2007-08, however its funding was interrupted by the 2007-09 recession. The IDC proposes making a $1.47 billion investment directly to the Foundation Aid formula, for the first year of a three-year commitment to achieve complete funding.

  • Protecting Immigrant Communities - Immigrants are the fabric of New York State. Nearly two-thirds of defendants in the US immigration court system face a judge without legal help because immigrants have no right to counsel. Last year, the IDC secured $250,000 in funding for the Vera Institute of Justice for services and expenses related to assisting detained immigrants facing deportation. The IDC proposes increasing funding to $11.1 million to ensure that all immigrants, regardless of status, have access to legal representation. The $11.1 million in funding represents an increase to New York City of $870,000 and state funding by $3.35 million. By funding legal services for those facing deportation we can ensure that immigrants are afforded due process and equal treatment while eliminating disparities and enhancing the integrity of our current justice system.

  • Combatting Homelessness - The homelessness crisis in New York City, in particular, cannot be solved by spending taxpayer dollars to place homeless families and individuals in temporary hotels and motels. The expensive, unstable and sometimes unsafe settings do nothing to solve the crisis. The IDC supports the creation of the Home Stability Support program to subsidize housing for homeless families and individuals, those on the brink of homelessness and families facing domestic violence or hazardous conditions. The program would save taxpayers money, while creating stability for families and individuals by giving them a place to call home.

“New Yorkers want real results and solutions to their everyday concerns. The IDC is going to make a positive change for New York’s working- and middle-class families who struggle to send their children to college through our College Affordability for All plan, make sure our teenagers are treated as such by Raising the Age of criminal responsibility and create good-paying jobs through our Made by New Yorkers vision,” said IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

“The IDC has always changed New York for the better. After finally closing the Gap Elimination Adjustment last year, this session we will work towards accelerating the implementation of foundation aid to fairly fund our schools. Our visionary agenda also seeks to bring good-paying jobs upstate through the Made by New Yorkers program to keep manufacturing jobs here and showcase products made in this state,” said IDC Deputy Leader David Valesky.

“The IDC is a voice for all New Yorkers and I’m especially proud that our agenda advocates for property tax rebates for vulnerable seniors, college affordability for our students and protections for our workers.  When policy can make an impactful change — ensuring a senior can afford to live at home, making sure a student receives tuition assistance and shielding workers from bad actors— it is worth fighting for,” said Senator Diane Savino.

“Each of these proposals have very clear positive impacts for so many communities throughout New York.  From expanding access to affordable higher education to incentivizing manufacturers to stay here through property tax rebates, the IDC policy agenda represents a comprehensive plan to help our economy grow and thrive in the future,” said Senator David Carlucci.

“Our legislative priorities this upcoming session show the IDC’s commitment to investing in New York families who have helped solidify this State as the progressive beacon that it is today. Our commitment to making the State more affordable, more fair, and more prepared for the future shines through in this year’s ‘Changing New York’ agenda. The creation of a Class 1-A for condo and coop owners will result in fairer tax treatment and will keep condos and coops affordable, establishment of a property tax cap in New York City will provide the City with the same tax cap provisions enjoyed by other cities across the State, the IDC’s homelessness package will allow for the creation of more affordable housing units to keep families out of shelters and in their homes, and the ‘Made By New Yorkers’ program will help grow new ideas in the State of New York. It is clear, this session the IDC will invest in our State in ways that most others would not in order to create real, progressive change for our future,” said Senator Tony Avella.

“This year’s ‘Changing New York’ agenda is one that will vastly improve the lives of all New Yorkers.  Important criminal justice policies, like raising the age of criminal responsibility, will have a real impact on our young people, especially in our communities of color. Our No Worker Left Behind proposal will bring justice to car wash workers who have long experienced wage theft in their industry. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the IDC to see the change that these policies will bring,” said Senator Jesse Hamilton.

“As I begin my first legislative session I am excited to get to work on the ‘Changing New York’ agenda that the IDC has put forth. We are ensuring that all young New Yorkers have bright futures by making college more affordable, including undocumented immigrants. At the same time we are protecting our vulnerable immigrant community by providing those in immigration court with legal counsel so that they can have a fair hearing. These are policies that when enacted will make our communities stronger and fairer for all New Yorkers,” said Senator Marisol Alcantara.

Other signature issues include:

  • Increasing civil defense funding for housing court litigants - Many tenants who find themselves in housing court are unaware of their rights and lack access to sufficient legal counsel. The IDC will work with legal groups throughout the state to identify the necessary amounts.

  • No Worker Left Behind- While home health aides care for our most vulnerable citizens they earn a meager $10.75 an hour and personal care aides make just a little more at $11.73 a hour. Subpar wages in this fast-growing industry have lead to a high-turnover for health care workers, making it hard for consumers to build enduring relationships with their aides. Half the human service workers, like social workers or child care workers, earn less than $15 per hour, even though two thirds require college degrees to work. These workers often use their personal vehicles to commute long distances to meet their clients, without reimbursement. While New York State raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, it is still an inadequate rate for caregivers. The IDC proposes raising their wages incrementally over six years so their earnings reach above the statewide minimum wage. These workers are paid through Medicaid and it would cost the state $45 million in the first year and by its final implementation $270 million a year. The IDC also proposes making workers hired through the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program eligible under the Wage Parity Law so they will be paid at the same rate as other home care workers.

Workers in the car wash industry receive tips differently than in other industries such as restaurants. Because tracking worker hours and tips is difficult and time consuming, workers are subject to wage theft by employers who fail to make up the difference between their wages and tips. Senator Hamilton’s proposal, S.2541, would make car wash workers eligible for the full minimum wage, without the tip credit.

  • Enhancing the Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption (SCHE) and Disabled Homeowners’ Exemption (DHE) - The SCHE/DHE programs help senior and disabled residents remain in their homes through exemptions on property taxes. However, the qualifying income limits remain astoundingly low. While income thresholds for similar programs, such as SCRIE/DRIE, were increased by the IDC to help more seniors and disabled tenants, the SCHE/DHE benefit remains at a combined income limit of just $29,000, with a “sliding scale” option for those making over $29,000, but less than $37,400. In order to restore parity between these programs, and reflect the rising cost of living in New York, the IDC would enhance SCHE/DHE by increasing the income limit to $50,000, with the “sliding scale” ceiling being $58,400 for lesser tax relief.
Leaders and experts agreed that the IDC’s plan would change the state for the better.

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