A Proud Progressive New York or a Declining Empire State?
Speech by Karen Scharff to Citizen Action of New York Members and ActivistsJanuary 26, 2011Hello, I¶m Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York, and I want speak to you today about the direction of our great state.My remarks are a response to the first State of the State address by Governor Andrew Cuomo.I was glad to hear our new governor call for a restoration of our pride in New York State, and hisdesire to ³remake our State into the progressive capital of the nation.´I know as members of Citizen Action and as activists in your communities, you share my pridein the things that truly make New York great. We are proud to be New Yorkers because of whatwe¶ve built together ± our world class public universities, our public school system that is thesecond best in the country, our parks, our community colleges, our health care providers and our public services have all made our state a good place to live and to work.I agreed with the Governor¶s call for us to ³build a new New York for future generations.´ AndI was very happy to hear him call for the reforms necessary to make our government responsiveonce again to the people of our state, including replacing our current µpay to play¶ campaignfinance system with publicly financed voter-owned elections. We at Citizen Action look forwardto working with the Governor to achieve that goal.But, while I support his goal of bringing back pride and stability to our state, I have strongconcerns that the Governor¶s approach to the state budget will harm New Yorkers and will harm New York State¶s future. Although he talked about becoming the progressive capital, when itcomes to fiscal policy, I do not believe he advanced a progressive vision for New York. I amconcerned that we may end up putting the priorities of the wealthiest ahead of the needs of all New Yorkers.And I am not alone with these concerns. I have heard from people who work in the fields of education, health care, social and economic justice, and community building that the Governor seems to be headed toward proposing a budget that undermines the very systems and publicstructures that make New York a great place to live and raise our families.Why am I so concerned? Because the Governor blamed what he called the µspecial interests¶ for overspending and creating the deficit. Are the millions of New Yorkers struggling with poverty,hunger and sickness, the school children of our state, our college students, and the vast majorityof working and middle class New Yorkers who are simply trying to get by - are they all specialinterests?The Governor is right that we face a serious budget deficit. But to get a full and accurate