Economic Justice

Policy Statement

In New York, we have the worst wealth inequality of any state in the United States. The disparity in wealth is reinforced with a highly regressive tax system where lower and middle income people pay a higher percentage of income on their taxes than the very wealthiest. We are committed to policy solutions where we invest in our economy from the bottom up rather than the top down.

State Legislation

The Council will always make every effort to counter wealth inequality which in New York is the worst in the country. During the pandemic, New York billionaires saw their wealth dramatically increase while many others struggled with lost income, high property taxes and higher costs for health care, childcare, food and other necessities.

New York, when accounting for all taxes paid, has a very regressive tax system where poor and middle-income people pay a higher percentage of their income on taxes than the very wealthiest. In addressing this crisis, the legislature did manage to pass a state budget which included a modest 4.5billion millionaire surcharge on the wealthiest individuals by enacting a 1% to 2% income tax surcharge starting with people make 5 million or more and ¾ of percent in the corporate income tax rate. Unfortunately, these increases are only temporary and will sunset after two years. We also saw for the first-time full funding of public-school budgets. Here are the highlights:

Progressive Income Tax

• Increase in tax rates (from 8.82% to 9.65%) for those earning more than $1 million (or $2 million in joint filings)

• New tax brackets for people who make between $5 million and $25 million (10.3%), and those making over $25 million (10.9%)

Corporate Tax

• Increase to 7.25 percent from 6.5 percent (unchanged for small businesses)

• Reinstate Capital Base Tax at .1875%, exempting coops and manufacturers 4 InvestInOurNY.org

• $2.1 billion fund for excluded workers. This is the first fund of its kind in the United States. With this fund, New York will provide between $3,000 and $15,000 survival checks to 200,000 excluded workers.

• $2.4 billion emergency rental assistance program that will help tenants across the state, including undocumented people, pay rent debt accrued during the COVID crises.

• Three-year full phase-in of the $4.2 billion owed to NewYork's high-needs public schools after 15 years of organizing for equity in school funding.

• $1 billion fund to support small businesses, including $800 million for small business grants and$200 million in small business tax credits.

• $900 million fund for working and middle-class tax relief including $440 million in property tax relief for 1.3 million New Yorkers and$400 million in middle-class personal income tax cuts.

• Restoration of over $400 million in Medicaid cuts to healthcare services

• $105 million expansion of universal full-day prekindergarten, providing pre-K funding to 210districts that don’t receive state-funded pre-k now.

The New York budget was greatly aided with the Passage of AmericanRescue Plan Act of 2021.

Work to be done:

We will continue to strongly advocate for taxation of the wealthiest combined with significant property tax relief made possible by the state taxing at the top so they can assume more financial responsibility for city and county services which are more in line with the higher percentage of state services supported by state government. For example, most states, unlike New York, assume a higher percentage of education costs and all Medicaid costs, so that school districts and municipalities are not so property tax reliant to fund their school systems and municipal services.

Other approaches to taxation could include the following:

The stock transfer tax, introduced by Phil Steck, which failed in the 2021 legislature should be reintroduced in 2022.

Data tax. Read Fiscal Policy Institute's analysis of a Data Tax. The Fiscal Significance of Data a Billion Dollar Policy Innovation

Gotham Gazette Article on New York State Budget for 2022

November 2. We invite you to join the campaign for just wages. https://www.justpayny.org/

 


Federal Legislation

On the Federal level, we were pleased to see passage of various Covid Relief bills including the American Relief Act passed in the Winter of 2021. Current Federal bills, including the Building Back New York Better Act, include a smaller “hard” infrastructure and a “human” infrastructure bill. This Act would ideally be financed by recapturing of massive tax cuts given to corporations and the wealthiest Americans under the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act which proved to be very poor economic investments embracing the trickle-down supply side economic theory that if you give more money to people at the top it will trickle down to everyone else. This theory has been widely discredited. We believe bottom-up investments made possible by progressive taxation will do much more to deal with economic disparities.

FACT SHEET: The Build Back Better Agenda Will Provide Greater Tax Fairness for Small Businesses
The Biden-⁠Harris Administration Immediate Priorities

As of September 25, 2021, President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” Act is struggling to garner the support needed for passage. Some Congresspeople on the House side have introduced modifications to lessen the size and impact of the plan out of fear that the Senate will not accept the 3.5 trillion dollar package.

At it's core, the Build Back Better agenda aims to revise the tax code to make the uber-wealthy and large corporations pay more in taxes (reversing the Trump tax cuts of 2017) to create jobs, lower taxes, and decrease the overall cost of living for working families. This act is heavily reliant on sticking to its $3.5 trillion figure over ten years by taxing the wealthy. It is the hope of legislators supporting the Build Back Better Act, that the $3.5 trillion will show that, with a larger sum of money, we will revitalize our economy, eliminate poverty, and reverse the worst wealth inequality in a generation. As disagreements have emerged in the Democratic caucus over Build Back Better, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has promised there will be a vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill by September 27th. In response to this, progressives in the House of Representatives have claimed they will not vote for the infrastructure bill without voting on Build Back Better as well, hopefully, further incentivizing the lawmakers to vote on the 3.5 trillion dollar package.

As Pelosi drives towards the September 27 vote, she is having to contend with moderates watering down the bill. Of particular concern is a vote earlier n September by United States Representative, Kathleen Rice on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, opposing the ability of Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. In addition, the House Ways and Means Committee was able to include most tax elements of the “Build Back Better” agenda in their proposal, which particularly target the taxation of the extremely wealthy and large corporations but there were some tax provisions that were slightly less robust than what was proposed by the President which could lessen the amount of revenue needed to pay for the bill. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a bi-partisan agreement on taxation to forge a compromise but it is unclear whether it will be enough to garner the support of moderates and the swing votes Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Krysten Sinema who have heavily resisted the 3.5 trillion price tag even though it is spread over ten years and paid for with tax increases.

In spite of some reticence from moderates, the Build Back Better still includes almost all the original provisions. The closing of the Medicaid coverage gap was approved to increase subsidies in the American Recovery package. The ability for Medicare to negotiate down drug prices, regardless of Kathleen Rice’s apparent opposition. Dental and hearing care were also expanded. The House passed the Child Tax Credit, which allows all children to be eligible based on their income. The expansion of housing choice vouchers was also approved to almost 2 million households. Pressure from the public will also result in Kathleen Rice reversing her position to voting for the Build Back Better program in its final form while pressing moderates to hold the line and keep the BBB plan at 3.5 trillion over ten years.

Here are some high points:

  • Health care for millions of Americans by closing the Medicaid coverage gap (link) and extending the improvements in Affordable Care Act marketplace subsidies (link)
  • Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit improvements that will continue to provide critical assistance to poor and low-income children and low-wage workers. Notably, the House package would permanently extend the feature of the CTC that makes it fully available (“fully refundable” in Hill parlance) to all eligible children, which is largely driving the 40 percent reduction in child poverty and helping households with low incomes make ends meet (link, with state-by-state data)
  • Funding for Housing Choice Vouchers that would help 1.7 million households live in safe, stable housing and put us on a path to end homelessness (link, with state-by-state data here)
  • The nation’s first comprehensive paid family and medical leave program (link)
  • Nutrition assistance provisions that would substantially reduce childhood hunger (link)
  • A revenue package that will pay for almost all the investments in the package by rolling back the Trump tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest households (link) and securing health care savings by reducing drug costs

CBPP produced two new sets of talking points about the bill and what we must fight for: one set for your communications with members of Congress and their staff, and another set for more public-facing communications.

National Council of Churches. Please review a statement about the Build Back Better Plan released on September 24 by the National Council of Churches in their newsletter.

Actions You Can Take

The Senate returned to Washington on October 18 after a week on recess where they heard an earful from their constituents and a lot of encouragement to cut the best deal they can for the Build Back Better Act. Build Back Better will be the most consequential piece of legislation since the New Deal which promises to radically reduce poverty and reduce wealth inequality.

In Washington, it appears that the total number may be closer to 2.2 Trillion than to 3.5 trillion. In the effort to compromise there are two approaches. One approach is to narrow the number of initiatives leaving many worthy programs on the cutting floor. For example, we are concerned that housing vouchers could be eliminated while dialing back important climate provisions. Some immigration provisions and $15.00 an hour minimum wages was already trimmed out. The other approach is referred to as the "haircut approach" where all programs are retained but trimmed being in place over five years rather than ten years. The brilliance of Build Back Better is its comprehensive approach so as not to leave people behind. We wish to retain that comprehensive approach and stay as close to 3.5 trillion to make the "haircut" as minimal as possible.

We are grateful to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities for their analysis. In addition, the Poor People's Campaign sponsored a national town hall in support Build Back Better featuring politicians, pastors, economists, and activists from all over the country.  

With Congress debating a significant expansion of S8 vouchers, @theNYHC studied the impact of making the program universal. The results would transform NY and the US.

Call Your member of Congress and Senator Schumer and Gillibrand and tell them that we need to pass the Build Back Better Act and they must not cut programs from the proposed Act and they should stay as close to the 3.5 Trillion figure if at all possible. If they must cut, do not eliminate programs but extend them over a five instead of a ten year time period.

We also commend to you a call to action from Social Action Committee of The Riverside Church to call on Congress to pass Build Back Better along with this powerful sermon, Seen & Not Heard: Raising a Nation by Listening to Children, delivered by The Reverend Dr. Starsky Wilson, Executive Director of The Children's Defense Fund at the Children's Sabbath at The Riverside Church.  Use this call to action to contact your lawmakers and view the Children's Sabbath Service including the sermon for October 17 by clicking here.

In addition, please stress that it is critical that all the funding for housing is preserved. Housing, in the words of President Biden, is a right and not a privilege. The housing funding will have an outsized impact on lifting so many rent burdened people out of poverty. Here is a report, New York Housing Conference Report : Universal Rental Assistance Economic and Fiscal Impact Study just published by the New York Housing Conference which makes a powerful case for vast expansion of the housing vouchers which right now are only available to 1 in 4 eligible Americans. Here is the New York Housing Conference Analysis of Affordable Housing Investment in Federal Infrastructure Bills. You can also send out this tweet in support of Build Back Better

News and Updates:

September, 25, 2021--https://thehill.com/policy/finance/budget/573948-house-panel-advances-35t-spending-bill

September 27, 2021--Speaker Pelosi announces that a vote will be taken on the bi-partisan 1.2 Trillion dollar infrastructure package on Thursday, September 30 with debate beginning on September 27. Progressives are pushing hard, saying they will not vote for the bi-partisan deal without a concurrent vote on the 3.5 trillion Build Back Better Plan.

October 19, 2021--after the Progressive Caucus succeeded in preventing a vote on the hard infrastructure bill, Speaker Pelosi announced a new deadline for a vote on October 31. The plan continues to be that there will only be a vote on the hard infrastructure plan when the Build Back Better plan is also assured of approval.

October 25, 2021--Negotiations about setting a budget and the add/drop of programs from Build Back Better due to funding reductions continue this week. There has still been no commitment from Senators Sinema and Manchin about a budget number to which they would agree. The new deadline to vote on the infrastructure bill is October 31st. Additionally, the 31st will conclude the federal surface transportation extension. At this time, a great amount of conversations amongst House Democrats are taking place behind closed doors, so the outcome is hard to predict. 

There are rumors circulating that the final budget will be as low as $1.75 trillion. This means that programs originally included in the Build Back Better will be cut or reduced. 

While compromise will happen, at this point in the negotiations it is important during this time that people continue to educate themselves and advocate for all the programs they want to see survive this massive reduction. We need to continue to support programs that we feel are important, even if they might not make it into the final package since they could be picked up later in a new reconciliation bill. 

Once a framework is agreed to it will be important to set aside differences and do the very best we can to have Congress pass that framework even if certain provisions are cut.  

For a full discussion of the state of play in Washington please view the October 20, 2021 State Street Forum: Infrastructure on a Human Scale featuring Mary Clark, Federal Issues Coordinator for Citizen Action and The Reverend Phil Tom with The Riverside Church.

Here also is a rally in West Virginia sponsored by the Poor People’s Campaign held in West Virginia on Sunday, October 25.

October 31, 2021 President Joe Biden came out with a framework for Build Back Better that was then passed through the congressional leadership on Thursday morning.  The White House released a statement outlining the contents of the framework. The framework will be transformational, although there are notably some important components that were not included in the bill, like paid family leave. Here is a careful analysis from Sharon Parrott from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of the Build Back Better bill on all the provisions with the exception of climate provisions. Here is some commentary from Bill McKibben on the climate provisions which were paired back but still constitute a major move forward. Here also is some analysis on the climate provisions in Bloomberg News. 

https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/606325685793ca310e8dc017/617f4158e544b02142f87744_Climate%20Provisions%2C%20Build%20Back%20Better.pdf

We are also learning that the State and Local Taxes cap may be lifted for the next three tax years before returning to the current 10,000 cap. Moreover, there is a third effort underway to persuade the Parliamentarian to approve immigration provisions which allow provide work authorization and protection from deportation to some undocumented immigrants. 

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said that she would hold open a vote on BIF (the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Bill), and is hoping to get a vote once it's clear that the legislative language is approved which reflects the framework for Build Back Better. Progressives have refused to vote on the BIF until they have complete assurance that Senators Manchin and Sinema will vote for the package. 

It appears that a vote on the Build Back Better plan and the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure bill together could come as early as Tuesday. Announcement of vote, should indicate that all parties have now moved beyond the framework and have agreed on the final legislative language. It will not come to the floor unless Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have the votes to pass it. The Hill is reporting that there is more haggling over provisions not included in the framework which could delay the solidification of the final text. 


What we want from you: We are urging you to call your lawmakers and say we want a vote which will result in the successful passage of both Build Back Better and the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure passage. . Express your disappointment that some provisions are not included and if some can restored that would help, but that it is also important the final legislative language does not further water down what is in the President's framework and that both of the bills need to be approved. Remain hopeful! What was not passed in this bill, can be addressed again in the future in new legislation!

November 6, 2021: Update from the Health Care Action Network (HCAN). As is becoming the custom, the House voted late tonight on the first of two bills we want passed. House Democrats voted just a few minutes ago on passage of the BIF (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) after a grueling evening of disagreements and a standoff between moderates and progressives over the BBB's CBO score and whether to vote on both bills at the same time or one after the other. Democrats came to an agreement just a few hours ago.

BIF passed with 13 Republicans voting for the bill for a vote count of 228-206---that's actually less Republican support than in the Senate, where it got 19 votes. Six progressive Democrats voted no to drive home their opposition to the process that separated votes on BIF and BBB after Speaker Pelosi was able to get factions to agree to late-night  written agreement that promised a vote on BBB following the BIF vote.  Five moderate Democrats that created a block to voting for both bills by insisting they need a CBO score before voting on BBB signed off, agreeing to support BBB if the CBO score is consistent with what is expected:  Reps. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Ed Case (Hawaii), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.). The vote on BBB is now expected the week of Nov. 15th.

Here's a tweet to amplify passage of BIF, which when all is said is done, is a big achievement and will create millions of jobs over the coming decade while also finally addressing crumbling infrastructure and the many modernizations that are long overdue,

• SHARE THIS TO AMPLIFY: https://twitter.com/BuildingBack_US/status/1456826521587433476

Now What? Now, the BIF will go to the President for a signature. BBB is headed for a vote after next week and during the interim, Democratic leaders will need to hold the line to make sure support holds and no more changes are made to the bill before it goes to the Senate. Once it gets to the Senate, there could be more changes and tweaks--some likely not good. If there are substantive changes, the bill will then have to come back to the House, where it will again face obstacles. BBB has a ways to go.

Read more: House Passes Infrastructure Bill, Sending it Biden's Desk https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/580382-biden-hails-passage-of-infrastructure-bill-plans-to-sign-it-soon

And here: Congress approves $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, sending measure to Biden for enactment https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2021/11/05/house-infrastructure-reconciliation-vote/

Margarida Jorge

Executive Director

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) &

Health Care for American Now Education Fund (HCANEF)

mj@healthcareforamericanow.org