With a focus on addressing income inequality for 2014, a coalition of political action groups gathered Tuesday at noon at the State Capitol State Street entrance for the 24th annual People's State of the State rally.
"Biden is here today. Obama will talk about income and equality. De Blasio will talk about income and equality. But where is our Governor in the most unequal state in the country on income and equality?" That's Sara Niccoli with the New York State Labor Religion Coalition, leading the call at the People's State of the State rally.
The 2014 event compared the agenda of Obama-Biden, de Blasio and Cuomo on income equality. Mark Dunlea with the Hunger Action Network urges Governor Cuomo to acknowledge that New York has the worst problem of income inequality in the entire United States. "That is an issue he could learn something from President Obama, Vice President Biden and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The minimum wage we did last year is still a sub-poverty wage. It needs to be higher. He needs more money for emergency food programs. It's good to see him putting' some money on the table for affordable housing. We need more. We especially need Section 8 Rent Subsidy Vouchers so that people are not paying 50, 60, 70 per cent of their income for housing."
The groups want a state minimum wage of at least $10 an hour. The Coalition for a Real Minimum Wage Increase noted that food tip workers were left out of the recent minimum wage deal. Executive Director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness Ron Deutsch says the groups released an interim report card for the Governor evaluating his progress on key issues during his first three years and making recommendations for improvement for the final year of his first term, including tax fairness, hunger, child poverty, education, job creation, living wages, immigrant rights and homelessness. "These are issues we need the Governor to address in his State of the State Address, but these are issues that year after year he continues to ignore, and in fact the policies that he's put in place over the last three years that he's been Governor have made the problem worse, not better, so we really need the Governor to focus like a laser beam on some of these critical social issues, before it's too late."
The activists claim the richest 1% of the state's residents now receive 35% of the income, a disparity not seen since right before the Great Depression. Mark Dunlea says his group has high hopes for Mayor de Blasio - hoping to convince him to initiate both universal school lunch programs and breakfast in the classroom. Dunlea notes they're watching to see who he appoints to head the City's Welfare Department. "...because they have been very opposed to traditional jobs programs, education and job training for low-income New Yorkers. We're hoping that Mr. de Blasio will change that position as he did when he was on the city council and was quite good on these issues."
The SOS is traditionally held the day before the Governor's official address to provide what advocates describe as "a realistic picture of how the state is faring on hunger, homelessness, income equality, and employment."
The Cuomo administration did not return a call for comment.