City Council members joined union representatives and social service advocates on the steps of City Hall today in support of a proposal to replace cuts to human services with measures to eliminate tax breaks for banks.
“This is the fairest budget I’ve ever seen,” Council Member Jumaane Williams shouted as he brandished a copy of the budget proposal, compiled by the progressive umbrella May 12 Coalition. “If anybody, including the mayor or the governor, is not talking about this you are lying by omission.”
The report’s proposals include eliminating a provision exempting hedge fund profits from the unincorporated business tax, demanding that banks repay subsidies and tax credits intended to create jobs, and preserving the so-called millionaire’s tax, which sunsets at the end of the year. The report’s authors estimated that “subsidies, sweetheart deals and tax loopholes” for banks amount to about $1.5 billion.
Speakers warned of the implications of a proposed city budget that would cut nearly half a billion dollars from social services, from childcare centers to AIDS treatment programs. Many cast Mayor Michael Bloomberg as more sympathetic to business interests than to preserving services, referring repeatedly to the mayor’s desire to protect his “rich friends.”
“This budget is a budget that the city cannot afford,” Council Member Daniel Dromm said. “The toll that is going to take on human services, on educational services, on daycare services, is too much for the city of New York to bear.”
Council Member Brad Lander, standing next to Progressive Caucus co-chair Melissa Mark-Viverito, sounded a familiar theme of holding the financial industry responsible for the economic collapse. He has previously introduced legislation to hold banks responsible for foreclosures.
“There is something wrong when the institutions that caused the financial crisis, with credit default swaps and CDOs and toxic assets, who have refused to address the crisis and modify mortgages and put communities back together are doing better, are making more than they have ever made,” Lander said.
The rally also served as a preview of a planned march from City Hall to Wall Street on May 12. Williams said that he planned to call for the city to “cease to run” at that rally if the mayor’s cuts are not restored.
“I’m advocating for anything that will allow people to express how dissatisfied they are,” Williams said when asked to clarify. “If that’s a strike, I’m all for it.”