CSEA Region 5

Why are you interested in CSEA’s endorsement?

I would be proud to list CSEA's endorsement on my webpage and campaign literature because progressive tax reform to fully fund our cities and schools is my top policy priority.

I believe that the fiscal crisis and pending insolvency faced by the city of Syracuse and its school district – and many other local governments in New York State – is manufactured by the failure of New York State to fulfill its funding promises regarding state revenue sharing and the Foundation Aid Formula for the schools.

The local fiscal crises can be quickly resolved with more progressive state taxes and increases in revenue sharing. These reforms need to only partially meet previous levels of progressive taxation and revenue sharing to resolve the local fiscal crises: a fraction of the full $16 billion a year in the Stock Transfer Tax that is now 100% rebated, a progressive income tax structure closer to that which prevailed in the 1970s, and sharing a quarter of the 8% of state revenues promised until recently in Sec. 54 of the State Finance Law.

I will speak up for Syracuse to urge the state to live up to its previous promises to fund the city with adequate state revenue sharing and to fund the schools through the full funding of the Foundation Aid Formula enacted in 2007.

Unfortunately, none of the elected officials in the city – all of them Democrats – are demanding that the state live up to its previous funding promises. This alternative is largely missing so far from the campaign debate about Syracuse's fiscal crisis.

Instead, Mayor Miner has focused on demanding changes to state labor laws affecting the Triborough Amendment and Binding Interest Arbitration in order to give the city greater leverage to extract contract concessions from municipal employee unions. The public employees do not get enough now to give back enough in the future to cover the city's recurring budget gaps of about $25 million a year. If we fail to cover those gaps in the next year or two, a state-imposed Financial Control Board will inflict more cuts to the schools and public services, privatizations of public assets, tax hikes, and givebacks from public employees, whose existing contracts with the city will not be binding on the new entity in charge, the Financial Control Board.

The same could happen to the school district. The state Education Commissioner called a couple of weeks ago for a state law to enable the state to takeover and replaced the elected school boards of school districts that are failing financially or academically.

I will speak up against the efforts to weaken or repeal the Triborough Amendment in an attempt to balance budgets by cutting public employee wages, benefits, working conditions, and job security.

I also oppose the privatization of public services. Any short-term cost savings come at the expense of public unionized workers who are often replaced by low-wage workers for non-union contractors. And it is not long before private contractors, having secured initial contracts by low-balling bids, escalate fees once they capture the market and cutback on the services delivered in order to maximize profits. Public services have accountability built in to the democratic process that can keep the quality of service up and the costs contained.

As a Green Party member of the city council, I would have the political independence to speak up for fiscal justice. I believe that my freedom speak up would give cover for some of the Democratic councilors to join me in this advocacy, a number of whom have privately told me they agree with me. They seem to have been reluctant speak up for promised state funding because it contradicts the approach of their own party's leaders, the Mayor and the Governor, to seek a labor law changes that lead to contact concessions from public employees.

As a district councilor, I would not have the power alone to win the progressive state tax and revenue sharing reforms needed to fully fund the city and schools. But I would have the standing and voice to organize with labor and community groups to help build a movement for fiscal justice.

My campaign website – www.howiehawkins.org – details my policy platform on such issues as ensuring city residents and minorities get their fair share of city-funded jobs, expanding the workers covered by the living wage law, prioritizing public investment in community-owned cooperatives that build community wealth over tax breaks for absentee owners that exploit low-wage workers, and more.

But almost everything in my policy platform – almost all the problems the city faces – depends upon adequate funding for our public services and schools. Advocating and organizing to get the state to live up to its funding promises is therefore my top priority if elected.

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Howie Hawkins is the 2017 Green candidate for Syracuse Mayor
Hawkins for Mayor