People who attended Northwest Bronx Indivisible’s Town Hall on Sunday, December 15 took part in a wide-ranging discussion about the New York State Legislature’s 2020 legislative agenda with our representatives in that legislature, Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz and State Senator Alessandra Biaggi. The meeting touched upon a number of important issues. You can watch a video of the entire meeting; here is a recap of the key points:
- The state is facing a looming budget deficit, meaning it will have to raise revenue, most likely in the form of new or increased taxes. Dinowitz said concerns that tax increases would drive businesses out of New York State were baseless; as evidence he cited the fact that during recent years, after previous administrations reduced taxes, no businesses came into the state. Biaggi asserted that if the legislature did not pass the proposed pied-a-terre tax (an annual tax on second homes worth more than five million dollars) this year, “shame on us.”
- Members of the audience attacked the revised campaign finance law as insufficient. Both representatives agreed that it fell short of ideal, but said it was a step in the right direction. While it did reduce the maximum contributions that could be made by individuals, both representatives felt the limit should be lower still. Both representatives condemned the component of the law raising the required number of votes that third parties must poll in order to remain on the ballot as a transparent blow against the Working Families Party.
- Speakers criticized the state education budget as too low. Biaggi asserted that the legislature and the public need to be more creative to solve this lack of funding.
- Both legislators expressed optimism that the New York Health Act will be passed this year, while at the same time acknowledging the challenges ahead as they face a powerful lobby from the insurance industry. They are convinced that even if it is not passed this year, it will eventually become law.
- Dinowitz informed the meeting that the legislature has included funding in the current budget to support the 2020 Census in order to reduce the likelihood that New York will be undercounted as we have in the past. Undercounting not only results in fewer representatives in Congress; it also means fewer dollars from social service programs are routed to New York neighborhoods that badly need it.