Garrido

INDUSTRY: District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, pictured at a Sept. 3 Foley Square rally decrying the possible layoffs of 22,000 city workers, was among numerous labor leaders to sign a letter by Governor Cuomo asking New York’s congressional delegation to press for $59 billion in Federal aid that would avoid significant cuts to local, county and state public services.

Governor Cuomo has enlisted the state's labor movement to press New York's congressional delegation for help in getting $59 billion in Federal aid needed to stave off significant cuts to local, county and state public services necessitated by the economic toll taken by the coronavirus.

In an Aug. 31 letter making his case for Federal aid, Mr. Cuomo was joined by Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO; George Gresham, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1199; Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council; Transport Workers Union of American President John Samuelsen; United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew; American Federation of Teachers Vice President Andrew Pallotta; District Council 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido; Public Employees' Federation President Wayne Spence, and Mary Sullivan, president of the Civil Service Employees Association.

Those unions represent close to two million voters in both the public and private sectors. New York State, with 20 percent of its employees unionized, has the second-highest percentage of organized workers in the nation.

'An Impossible Situation'

"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, New York State is in an impossible financial situation," Mr. Cuomo's letter stated. "There is no combination of state efforts that will address this financial crisis without federal assistance. Even if state and local governments cut expenses, increased taxes, and reduced services, the revenue shortfall would still be in the billions of dollars."

It continued, "Moreover, forcing state and local governments to take such actions would only further the pain and extend the period of time for the nation's economy to recover. Virtually all economists agree that forcing state and local governments to lay off employees and reduce services will negatively impact the national recovery. We saw that with the last fiscal crisis in 2007-2009, and we know that it will play out again."

According to Mr. Cuomo, New York State requires $30 billion in funding while New York City needs $9 billion, with local governments outside of the five boroughs short $4.5 billion.

He and the unions are also seeking funding to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority close its $12-billion budget gap and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey makeup for its $3 billion shortfall.

The initial rounds of COVID-19-related Federal funding were earmarked primarily for the unemployed and businesses, with some targeted aid to help local and state governments respond to the pandemic. These bills enjoyed bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-majority Senate and were signed into law by President Trump.

Politicized by McConnell

But the follow-up round of Federal aid aimed to help local, county and state governments lost momentum as the presidential election heated up and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell derided the aid as a "blue-state bailout" for what he said were poorly run states.

In recent months, local, county and state governments have experienced a catastrophic drop in revenues while spending billions on pandemic-related expenses. More than 1.5-million public-employee jobs have been eliminated.

The letter from Mr. Cuomo and the labor unions also took aim at the Trump/McConnell 2017 tax bill, which imposed a cap on state and local tax deductions that they charge targeted Democratic majority states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut which have high costs of living and high tax rates.

By the Governor's estimate, that change in the Federal Tax Code, which favored wealthy Americans and corporations, cost New Yorkers $15 billion annually. "Much damage has been done by this federal administration—policies like the SALT tax 'reform' that increased taxes on New Yorkers, and discriminatory policies that tout 'savings' while further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers," Mr. Cuomo wrote.

No Help This Year?

While the debate over a local and state Federal aid package continues, political consultant George Arzt doesn't think anything will come of it this year.

"It is doubtful that much is going to move before the election, since everything is viewed through a paranoid lens of 'does it help or hurt me on Nov. 3?' " he wrote in an email. "Certainly, Trump and the GOP are not going to go out of their way to help Blue states likely to vote against them. We lack statesman from either side of the aisle who could talk to their counterparts on the other side to hammer out a deal that could support all states that are hurting.

Currently, Democrats hold the state's two Senate posts and 21 of its 27 House seats. Historically, its Republican members have been somewhat independent of their party leadership on some issues.

Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican who is retiring at the end of the year, in May sided with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and voted for the $3-trillion Heroes Act, which included $875 billion in aid to local, county and state governments.

'Talking About Survival' 

"I can be as much a Red State person as anyone," he told Fox News at the time. "But now we're talking about survival. And this is no place for politics. There's a lot in the bill that I disagree with, but Mitch McConnell refuses to bring up aid to state and local governments. New York will absolutely collapse if that aid money is not there."

By contrast, Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, who was first elected in 2014, voted to oppose the Heroes Act but proposed her own measure to provide $500 billion in local government aid.

Like Mr. Arzt, Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College, believes a Federal rescue of local and state governments was unlikely this year.

"A letter like this from the Governor and the unions is not going to change Stefanik's behavior or the Republican attitude about the funding," he said. "But it's important for the unions to be on the record as part of that cost accounting for that $59-billion shortfall to set the agenda for what comes next. And the fact that it is both private and public unions is key. If there is a union moment, this may be it."


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(1) comment

Benzo

lets tap into the trillion dollar face mask industry lol

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