In just a couple of hours, at 4 p.m., the steps of City Hall will be swarmed with what labor leaders hope will be thousands of New Yorkers who fear that budget cuts could threaten important programs and services.
The rally, which the city teachers union is co-sponsoring, is one of several being held across the state today to lobby against the severe cuts included in Governor Paterson’s budget proposal, released in December. Legislators are working now to negotiate the state’s budget, which must be approved by the end of this month.
Some of the state cuts, particularly in education, appear likely to be reduced or even eliminated by funds allocated in the federal stimulus bill. But the groups sponsoring today’s rally think more could be done to insulate New Yorkers from the effects of economic recession. In particular, they are lobbying for what they call “Fair Share Tax Reform,” which would increase taxes on the state’s highest earners. Some have called this the “millionaire’s tax.”
Last month, I asked United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten whether the stimulus funds would solve the city’s school budget woes. She reminded me that the federal government is just one of the Department of Education’s funding streams, along with the state and the city:
The stimulus package is a pretty big piece of solving this puzzle, of solving this problem, but it’s not enough. … We still have to go up to Albany, and we still have to figure out if there are cuts that are left, how to do alternatives that do not hurt classrooms and direct services to kids. …
We still have to drive the message through Albany, we still have to drive the message through the City Council, that we have to deal with all of the cuts, and that we need to keep education alive for kids in the city.