Stopping the Attack on New York’s Middle Class
Currently, New York’s middle class is deeply agitated, shrinking, and poorer than it was over 20 years ago by today’s standards. More and more, working families are working more hours with less benefits with wages that barely account for inflation. Our property taxes are amongst the highest tax rates in the country. The cost of healthcare and caring for a sick family member has skyrocketed. And job growth has not risen steadily since the great recession of 2008. For public employees who took their jobs in order to put themselves on the path to the middle class, they now see that pathway diminishing. With proposals like the Constitutional Convention that would have destroyed the modest pensions that public employees rely upon to the Janus v AFSCME case currently before the United States Supreme Court, public employees are slowly being stripped of the benefits and protections that took decades to achieve.
We believe New York can do better. We believe New York needs a champion to fight for and defend New York’s middle class. United Neighbors of New York is committed to being that champion.
New York’s Affordable Housing Crisis
From New York City to Rochester to Syracuse to Buffalo and everywhere in between, working families are struggling to pay their mortgages and rent while the real estate industry continues to flourish. More people rent in New York than in any other state and nearly half of low income renters pay more than 30% of their income in rent. Our elected officials at every level of government have given big tax breaks to big real estate developers, while committing very little funding homeowners and renters who are low to moderate income earners. As a result, homelessness across the state has increased a staggering 36% over the past seven years. Over 1.5 million New York families struggle to pay their housing costs every month, putting them at high risk for foreclosure, eviction, and homelessness. We believe lawmakers in our state have failed to address the affordable housing crisis that has deeply hurt working families. Tackling this crisis will require the Governor and state law makers to strengthen and expand protections for both homeowners and tenants. If citizens like us are forced to leave New York, its tax base will continue to shrink leading to a decline in state spending, which will ultimately hurt all New Yorkers.
Fossil Fuel Divestment & New York’s Public Pension System
The $200 million Common Retirement Fund holds the assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System. It represents about 650,000 active state and local employees and 452,000 retirees.
A recent report, commissioned by the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees, found that the Fund would lose over $300 million over five years if forced to divest from fossil fuels – which earn around an 8% annual return – and replace them with “green” investments that return 3% to 5%. Contributions also would rise by at least $21.4 million over that period.
The report also revealed that converting almost $1 billion in fossil fuel investments could force state and local governments to raise taxes or cut services, including healthcare, public safety and education.
No reasonable person doubts that climate change is real, and that we must find ways to deal with it effectively. But forcing public employees and New York taxpayers to quickly and completely divest from fossil fuels will have little or no impact on climate change, yet it will have a severe economic impact on working men and women in New York.
Our position is that fiduciaries need to engage with us to come up with a strategy that is equitable to everyone. The battle to preserve the planet should not be waged on the backs of those who can least afford it.