The social activist group Citizen Action of New York has called the 2023 state budget “a betrayal of everyday New Yorkers,” and vowed to keep fighting for their priority programs and legislation until the end of session.
“The budget is a moral document, because it is the clearest statement of what our values and priorities truly are,” said the group’s Political and campaigns Director, Stanley Fritz. “With [Governor] Kathy Hochul’s state budget, she has made it clear that her values and priorities are tied to her big money donors, not the everyday people living and working in New York.
“Since taking office, Gov. Hochul has boasted of New York’s ‘historic surplus’ — this is a time when we should be investing in the resources that strengthen our communities like housing, health care, and child care,” Fritz continued. “Instead, Hochul blocked and cut the very programs that our communities desperately need.”
Citizen Action wants to seal and expunge past convictions to make it easier for those who served time to find work and housing opportunities; expand paid family and sick leave; and end “retaliatory” evictions and predatory rent hikes, before the end of session.
“When we see the governor squander this historic opportunity to invest in New Yorkers’ well-being in favor of subsidizing an NFL billionaire and catering to the whims of the corporate donors who fill her campaign coffers, it’s hard to interpret this as anything other than pay-to-play politics. We deserve so much more,” Fritz said.
Citizen Action is also pushing to ease medical debt for those in need; implement “age-appropriate” restorative discipline practices in school, instead of relying on suspensions; and prioritizing Black, Brown and other vulnerable communities that have suffered disproportionate effects of the climate crisis.”
The group’s Legislative Director Rebecca Garrard added, “Nothing says more clearly what Governor Hochul’s priorities are than the items that she fought for in this budget — she has unquestionably sided with the wealthiest in our state, at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.”
Citizen Action’s “Justice Agenda” covers a broad range of current issues in New York state. Among them include an end to mass incarceration, gender and worker equality, improved education and health care, and climate awareness, among others; during an Albany demonstration in March, speakers repeatedly emphasized that nobody lives “single issue lives.”
Earlier this year on March 22, members of Citizen Action convened in the Empire State Plaza in Albany to make their presence known to legislators, in hopes of them delivering what the group refers to as “Our Justice Agenda”’ in anticipation of the budget.
The attendees created works of art to display their mission statements and desires, before convening at the entrance of the Senate Chamber for a press conference. Attendees stepped up to make speeches regarding personal experiences and what they hoped to accomplish with Citizen Action, while Lieutenant governor candidate Ana Maria Archila, endorsed by the group, made a speech as well.
Other speakers at the event included Assembly members Anna Kelles and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, and Elisa Crespo of New Pride Agenda. Following the demonstration, the group delivered their art pieces directly to the legislative offices under the message “Time to Deliver.”
As explained by Jamell Henderson, one of the speakers at the demonstration on that day, “the mission and purpose for this is to let legislators know that we are here to call on them to pass the Our Justice Agenda…we want to make sure that elected officials know, especially post-pandemic…they have to flow with the times of change. You’ve got to be here to help service the people who are in need right now. New Yorkers are experiencing homelessness at an all-time high. Child care needs to be catered to…we need to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Climate, environmental justice…we’re coming together from all parts of the state.”
On the art pieces displayed at the demonstration, Henderson explained, “We want to show and maximize the voices of our members that represent the communities that we fight for. And art is a powerful way of sharing the importance of these issues without using verbal language. We’ve got powerful speakers who will be sharing different experiences, but sometimes you’ve got to see the experience in order to get it.”
Despite Citizen Action’s disappointment in the final budget, they said they remain optimistic.
“The post-budget period gives the Legislature the opportunity to pass crucial policies that minimize the harm done by this budget,” Garrard said.
“We are ramping up the pressure to pass policies that will protect access to housing, end medical debt, promote equity in education, reduce racial bias in the criminal legal system, address climate change and support democracy,” Garrard continued. “Our fight is not over…recent history has shown us that when we work together, we can achieve great victories for New Yorkers in this important window of time.”
“The Hochul budget is a deep betrayal, but we will not yield,” Fritz said. “Everyday New Yorkers will continue to rise up to demand a New York where everyone can thrive.”