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Protesting Proposed State Budget that Gives to the Rich & Takes from Most Vulnerable

March 30, 2011

Budget Agreement Reached Sunday by Cuomo, Legislature Would Enact Largest Cuts Ever to Education, Social Safety Net if Passed

Hundreds of public school students and working class New York City residents furious with the inequitable budget agreement reached Sunday in Albany demonstrated their anger outside and inside one of the largest gatherings of the nation’s CEOs tonight at the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Park Avenue.

Already facing deep cuts and a massive deficit, Assembly and Senate leaders made a handshake deal with Governor Cuomo on Sunday to create even more cuts by allowing the state’s progressive tax code, or “Millionaire’s Tax”, to expire at the end of this year. Under the tentative plan, education funding for schoolchildren would be slashed by more than $1 billion along with devastating cuts to the social safety net – elderly care, healthcare, housing – in order to pay for a record transfer of wealth from middle- and low-income New Yorkers to the wealthiest 1 percent.

Angry citizens among the 99 percent of New Yorkers that will be hurt by the cuts, but that would not see any tax hike under the current, fairer tax system protested inside one of the world’s most prominent symbols of wealth to bring their message directly to some of the state and nation’s wealthiest CEOs. Polls show they’re not alone in their frustration: more than two out of three New Yorkers support extending the Millionaire’s Tax.

“CEJ members – parents of thousands of children in some of the most struggling schools in New York City – are disappointed and angered by the news of such an unfair and inequitable budget,” said Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) organizer and public school parent Zakiyah Ansari.  “We are outside of the Waldorf Astoria today, a symbol of NYC’s extreme wealth, to call on the CEOs inside who represent the top percentage of wealth in this country to acknowledge that they are willing to pay their fair share. While they are honoring those among them doing good deeds, the ultimate good deed would be for them to call on the governor to support the Millionaire’s Tax. That will honor our children’s education.”

“We are in an education system where we, as students, do not get the adequate resources and funding that we need,” said Urban Youth Collaborative organizer Jorel Moore. “There is no excuse for using textbooks from the 1980s for our social studies classes. We don’t deserve to lose good teachers because ‘there simply isn’t enough money in the budget’. If the proposed cuts to education go through, who knows what conditions students will face in the future. With the Millionaire’s Tax, we can at least reverse planned deep cuts to school funding.”

“Our communities still have a great lack of sustainable job opportunities, and even transportation is becoming too expensive. How can we even explore the job market when we can hardly afford to get there,” asked Nova Strachan of Mothers on the Move and Right to the City-NYC. “We have to choose between paying the rent, eating, transportation and other basic needs because of the un-affordability of these costs, but the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to suffer under this budget. How much more can we take? How can there be tax breaks for those who can afford to pay their fair share? We don’t want your millions mister, we don’t want luxury—we are simply working and crying for our needs. How can Cuomo sleep at night?”

“The reality is that homeless New Yorkers, or disabled New Yorkers, or people living with HIV/AIDS aren’t responsible for state budget problems,” said Wanda Hernandes, a VOCAL-NY leader and Board member. “We didn’t crash the economy; Wall Street did. New York deserves a fair and just budget that puts people first—not the big landlords, big banks and big corporations that funded Gov. Cuomo’s campaign.”

The CEOs gathered at the Waldorf tonight for the Catalyst Awards dinner, an annual event for a non-profit group chaired and supported by some of the country’s leading CEOs and corporations. The protesters selected the event because they believe the CEOs associated with the organization should come forward to support fair taxation in their host city and state—especially those very wealthy in attendance who do indeed live here, but would be exempted from paying their fair share under the current state budget agreement. The event’s invitation included honorees and sponsors from New York-based companies such as Eastman Kodak and Time Warner.

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