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How progressive is New York under Andrew Cuomo?

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How progressive is New York under Andrew Cuomo?

Photos from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Flickr account

At a rally in Manhattan in early June, Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly joined a push by the State Democratic Committee to unseat at least six New York Congressional Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.

“We need a movement to fight back,” said Cuomo, citing the negative fiscal impact the slated repeal and replacement of Obamacare would have on the Empire State. “The movement starts with New York because New York is always the first,” he said.

Women’s rights, workers’ rights, civil rights, environmental rights—movements for all of these took root in New York, Gov. Cuomo told the crowd, which reportedly included members of a number of trade unions.

Before Gov. Cuomo spoke, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called him a “bold, progressive leader.” Even the governor’s adversaries might concede the first adjective, but progressive? Is he? Are we, as a state? And when it comes to spearheading movements, policies, and legislation that advance social reforms, does it still, as Cuomo asserts, start with New York?

Gov. Cuomo has garnered accolades from national labor groups and politicians like Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But his record is now coming under increasing scrutiny from Democrats and left-of-center groups galvanized by the Trump presidency.

Activists point to how Cuomo has enabled Republican control of the State Senate by failing to use the State Democratic Party to support Senate Democrats and actively supporting a group of breakaway Democrats called the Independent Democratic Conference that has empowered Senate Republicans in exchange for a say in policy and perks they wouldn’t enjoy as part of the minority.

Cuomo seems to have all but abandoned Senate Democrats who actively support a host of progressive causes and tends to clash publicly with Assembly Majority Leader Carl Heastie. Many in the state believe Cuomo to be a firm moderate who selectively acts on progressive causes in pursuit of national recognition and to bolster his presidential ambitions.

The governor’s supporters counter that, above all, he’s effective. “Politics is full of people who are full of it—lots of people talk, we act,” Rich Azzopardi, the governor’s senior deputy communications director, said in a statement. “From being the first big state to pass marriage equality, to passing the nation’s strongest gun control and paid family leave laws, to enacting a $15 minimum wage and making the opportunity [to get] a college education a right, we’ll put this Governor’s record up against anyone else’s without hesitation.”

Regardless of whether he ultimately chooses to pursue the country’s highest office several years from now, Cuomo’s record will come under review in the more immediate future, as he seeks a third term as governor in 2018. Along those lines, The Alt took a look at how our state and governor compare nationwide on a number of key issues.

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Voting rights

In March, nonpartisan groups Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project published “America Goes to the Polls 2016,” a report on voter turnout in the most recent presidential election. After reviewing state board of elections filings, researchers determined that about 60 percent of eligible voters nationwide cast ballots, a marginal improvement from 2012.

Among all states and the District of Columbia, New York, at 57.3 percent participation, ranked 41st—above South Carolina, below Nevada. This was an improvement of sorts; we ranked 44th in 2012.

“California, New York and Texas continue to bring down turnout nationwide,” the report observed. “Together, the three states represent a quarter of the voting-eligible population. Had they voted at the same rate other states did in 2016, national turnout would have been 1.5 percentage points higher.”

Why are we performing so poorly? For one, unlike fifteen other states—all but one of which outperformed New York in 2016—we don’t have same-day voter registration. The report calls this option “the most effective and multi-faceted policy to increase voter participation across all states, regardless of voters’ ages and backgrounds.”

Automatic voter registration, approved in eight states and D.C., may also improve turnout via “two transformative, yet simple, changes,” the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan public policy institution based at New York University Law School, has written. “Eligible citizens who interact with government agencies are registered to vote unless they decline, and agencies transfer voter registration information electronically to election officials. These two changes create a seamless process that is more convenient and less error-prone for both voters and government officials.”

Other potential reforms explored by the report and enacted in some states, though not New York, include online voting, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, “vote-by-mail,” and re-enfranchising convicted felons. (In New York, felons may vote only after completing their prison and/or parole terms.)

In January, Gov. Cuomo unveiled a slate of voting reforms that included automatic and same-day voting provisions. “This past election shined a bright light on the deficiencies of New York’s antiquated election laws and the artificial barriers they create that prevent and discourage voters from exercising this sacred right,” he said in a statement. “These proposals will modernize and open up our election system, making it easier for more voters to participate in the process and helping to make a more fair, more just and more representative New York for all.”

The overhaul, billed as the “Democracy Project,” did not make it into the budget, nor was it passed during the legislative session.

Early voting measures have been stymied by the state Senate, where Republicans run the show. Same-day registration might require an amendment to the state constitution, a three-year process, Gotham Gazette has reported.

A recent Democrat & Chronicle story on the push for electoral reforms in New York noted that the measures face “an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled Senate, where the GOP has long raised concern about opening the door to voter fraud.” (A Senate Republican spokesman did not return an emailed request for comment.)

“Far from the progressive symbol the Governor likes to tout, we are out of step with 34 other states that have some form of early voting, and nowhere near California which also has Automatic Voter Registration,” Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause NY, told Gotham Gazette in March.

A Cuomo spokesman told The Alt that advocates ought to direct their ire at the legislature.

“It was the governor who unilaterally put into place New York’s first online voter registration system and has repeatedly advanced additional voting reforms,” Rich Azzopardi, the governor’s senior deputy communications director, said in an email. “Each time they’ve been rejected by the legislature and any ‘advocate’ who truly cares about results should be trying to move the ball there.”

After the end of the legislative session, the state Democratic Committee announced a new voter registration drive.

Luke Stoddard Nathan

Government ethics, oversight

“Ethics reform…I don’t see that happening with this legislature,” Gov. Cuomo told reporters in April. The pronouncement proved prescient, even if it might have minimized the governor’s own ability to broker a deal.

“They will not do it,” Cuomo said, speaking of the legislature. “Their position is, ‘We did it. We did more ethics reform than ever before,’ which is true. There is more disclosure, there is more transparency. My point is: There’s more to do; there is no political will to do it.”

In January, the governor unveiled a “comprehensive package” of ethics and good government reforms, which included appointing a chief procurement officer, expanding the Freedom of Information Law to the state legislature, and closing the “LLC loophole,” which essentially allows corporations to exceed campaign donation limits.

None of these proposals made it into the annual budget, which requires agreement between Cuomo and legislative leaders. A New York Times headline noted the reforms’ conspicuous absence: “On Ethics,” it read, “Cuomo Budget Entered Like a Lion and Emerged Like a Lamb.” (The proposals weren’t adopted during the ensuing legislative session, either.)

In late 2015, the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism outlet, gave New York a D- grade at the conclusion of what it called “a comprehensive assessment of state government accountability and transparency.” This placed the Empire State pretty much in the middle of the pack. (There was no grade inflation—the top-ranking state, Alaska, only got a C.) Earlier that year, FiveThirtyEight relied on three different studies to try to rank states’ public corruption; New York ranked within the top third—that is, the most corrupt third—of all states on all metrics. The arrest of former state Assembly SpeakerSheldon Silver on corruption charges loomed large in both stories. Silver’s 2015 arrest prompted the adoption of a slew of Cuomo-backed ethics reforms, including stronger disclosure requirements, which the governor reportedly touted as “the strongest laws in the history of the state of New York.” (The governor also signed similar legislation in 2011, known as the “Public Integrity Reform Act.”)

Back in 2013, Gov. Cuomo formed the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, but disbanded it amid budget negotiations the following March. The governor has maintained that the commission served its purpose—“to educate the public [and] to spur the Legislature to pass ethics laws, which they did,” he said in 2015—and that it was entirely within his purview to shut it down. Watchdogs nonetheless took issue with the decision, and then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara seized the commission’s records, though he later cleared Gov. Cuomo of any wrongdoing related to what he called the “premature” closure.

This fall or winter in federal court, former Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco and a host of others are expected to face corruption charges, including bribery and wire fraud. All have pled not guilty. Part of the charges, which prompted the resignation of SUNY Polytechnic Institute president Alain Kaloyeros, involve large state economic development contracts in the Buffalo and Syracuse areas that prosecutors say were secretly steered to Cuomo campaign donors. (Gov. Cuomo was not accused of any wrongdoing.)

In response to the scandal, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and an array of good government groups proposed a slate of procurement-related reforms, including the reinstatement of the comptroller’s ability to pre-audit state contracts worth more than $250,000. Gov. Cuomo’s office cast the legislation as unduly burdensome and ineffective for preventing future criminal activity, instead supporting new or expanded roles for the state inspector general’s office and the appointment of the aforesaid chief procurement officer.

The comptroller’s bill did not pass this session. “It’s another sad day in Albany,” Ron Deutsch of the labor-backed Fiscal Policy Institute recently told Karen Dewitt of New York State Public Radio. “We have the largest bid rigging scandal in state history, and we virtually ignored it.”

After the federal corruption charges were publicized, Bart Schwartz of Guidepost Solutions, who was hired by the governor’s office to probe certain Buffalo Billion- and SUNY-related projects, released new procurement guidelines for state agencies. Letters from Schwartz to the governor, first obtained by The Buffalo News under the Freedom of Information Law, detailed how the firm recommended holding back $49 million worth of state vendor payments, pending further documentation (most of which was later reportedly obtained). The thorough review’s findings arguably may have justified its considerable price tag.

One bright spot for accountability in New York—though more an atavism than an innovation—is the state Committee on Open Government, created in 1974 pursuant to the newly created Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), which affords the public broad, though not universal, access to government records.

All other states have some sort of open records law on the books, but few have an agency quite like COG, which functions in part as a kind of public help desk. Each year, the three-person staff fields thousands of inquiries via phone or email from government officials and members of the public concerning FOIL and open meetings law.  

“To my mind, this office and our counterpart in Connecticut are the two survivors that have been free of politics forever,” longtime executive director Robert Freeman said on the Poozer Politics podcast last year.

“It’s unbelievable to think that you’re a state employee,” host David Lombardo said, “considering, you know—”

“Some people have said, ‘Yeah, I can’t believe they pay you to do this stuff,’” Freeman replied, adding: “There are days when I feel exactly the same way.”

Luke Stoddard Nathan

Environmental conservation and climate change

Gov. Cuomo has made a point throughout his six-year term to declare New York the most progressive state in terms of policies concerning the environment and clean energy standards.

Most recently, when President Trump pulled out of the Paris Accord on June 1, Cuomo joined with California Governor Jerry Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee in the United States Climate Alliance. The alliance, a statement from Cuomo’s office reads, “will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.”

In the past years, Cuomo has put forth several promises for New York to act as an environmental leader. Productive environmental regulations have been made, such as the ban on hydrofracking in 2015–though data collected by the Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY) revealed that waste from other states is still being dumped in New York. In cases like these, environmental activists and experts in New York point out that the governor’s mandates don’t always make the cut.

This year, the governor set goals to ensure clean air and water that include the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, set to invest $2 billion in water infrastructure throughout the state. This is a crucial need in New York, which faces aging infrastructure and toxic water in areas such as Hoosick Falls, Newburgh and areas of Long Island.

Liz Moran, water and natural resource associate at EANY, has applauded this investment, which is set to be distributed amongst several municipalities and infrastructure projects over the next five years. But she points out that it will take much more than $2 billion.

“It’s something that New York has been leading on that we haven’t seen in other states and that money has been very well spent,” she said on Capital Tonight at the end of March, later adding, “It has been estimated that over the next 20 years we will need to invest about $80 billion in water infrastructure.”

In a 25-step plan, Cuomo intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their 1990 levels by 80 percent in 2050. Cuomo’s continuation of New York’s partnership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has also been noteworthy.

“You want New York to lead other states,” Jackson Morris of the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) told The Alt. “To keep that group intact and then expand and spread to other states. Leadership takes lots of forms, you can be the most aggressive but you can also be [the leader] pushing other states despite your different ideologies.”

Before Cuomo took office, New York joined eight other northeastern states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) to set a cap on carbon dioxide emissions within the region. At the 2017 State of the State address, Cuomo announced plans to lower that cap by another 30 percent.

According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation website, through the state partnership in RGGI, New York has reduced its carbon emissions by 45 percent since 2005. It has also reduced 90 percent of harmful pollutants such as mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone and particulate matter. Subsequently, the Clean Air Task Force of the DEC reports that since this time, illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, heart attacks, hospital visits, and death related to these pollutants have decreased statewide by 87 percent.  

It is worth noting that while the DEC reports an overall decrease in emissions and health consequences, there are still pockets of New York where residents are suffering the effects of carbon emissions and other toxins. The South End of Albany, as well as neighborhoods in Cohoes located near the “bomb” trains carrying Bakken crude oil still suffer from asthma, bronchitis and multiple cases of cancer that residents attribute to the air pollution.

It is Cuomo’s actions–or lack thereof–in cases such as the South End and Hoosick Falls that concern state activists the most.

When asked about Cuomo’s actions and statutes concerning environmental protection and public health, Bill Samuels, head of good government group Effective NY, believes Cuomo has been late in putting forth state mandates. “If it wasn’t for crises like Hoosick Falls,” he said, “I don’t know where we would be.”

Samuels and other environmental advocates are concerned that while Cuomo has put forth progressive goals and policies, the governor has not been aggressive enough in solidifying them into state laws to push New York ahead.

In March 2017, Senator David Carlucci and Assemblymember Steve Englebright sponsored an amendment (A.6279/S.5287) to the New York State Constitution that would include the Constitutional right to clean air and water  however, Samuels says, “Cuomo has said nothing about it.” The bill has passed in the Assembly but still awaits a decision in the State Senate.

This constitutional environmental right has been upheld–in one way or another–by several other states such as Illinois, Pennsylvania, Montana, Massachusetts and Rhode Island since the 1970s. “New York set forth, in 1894, the Forever Wild act and we’ve not updated our constitution since,” Samuels said. “As a result, you and I are at the mercy of the legislature.”

“You should ask the State Senate why they can’t get their act together to move along these bills,” Morris told The Alt. “We don’t have the time to wait.”

–Katie Cusack 

The clean energy industry

Gov. Cuomo has been equally adamant about New York’s status as a clean energy forerunner. In the 2016 State of the State address, he called on New York legislators to make the state an “international capital for clean and green energy products.”

As of 2017, New York’s Clean Energy Fund budget comes in at $5 billion and the proposed Clean Energy Standard requires that 50 percent of energy in New York come from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2030. It also calls for a 40 percent reduction of carbon emissions and other heat trapping pollutants from its levels in 1990.

There has been a notable investment in these industries so far. At this year’s address, Cuomo called New York’s offshore wind program–in which the governor has committed to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of energy by 2030–“unparallelled,” adding that the program “will create new, high-paying jobs, reduce our carbon footprint, establish a new, reliable source of energy for millions of New Yorkers, and solidify New York’s status as a national clean energy leader.” NY-Sun, started in 2012, has a committed budget of $1 billion and aims to generate upwards of 3 gigawatts of installed solar power by 2023. Cuomo has also promised to eliminate the use of coal in New York State altogether within the next three years.

“Governor Cuomo has one of the most ambitious energy standards in the nation,” the NRDC’s Jackson Morris said, calling NY-Sun and RGGI “nation-leading” programs and commending Cuomo’s goal to develop offshore wind energy.

While the standards may be ambitious, there is concern that New York is taking too long to get where it needs to be, both in the clean energy industry and environmental conservation.

“The goals are good but now we have to achieve them,” Judith Enck told The Alt. “I’m always skeptical of 2030, 2040, 2050. The deadline needs to be sooner and there needs to be regular reporting to the public as to are we achieving the goals, because if we’re not then we need to make a course correction.”

The issue in moving these deadlines up comes down to cost. “The reality is that we need economically viable, socially acceptable and reasonable goals that are achievable in a cost effective, technically sound manner. We can certainly accelerate these goals but it’s going to cost more and if that [came to be] that representative certainly wouldn’t be reelected,” Rory Christian, director of the Clean Energy Team for New York’s Environmental Defense Fund, explained.

So how do we get there? It all comes back to local and state legislation.

“The legislature can pass the bill to get the goals in statute. The Public Service Commission can issue orders and say here are some near-term deadlines,” Enck said.

In addition, while the goals are a positive step towards achieving leadership, New York won’t be the first to get there. The Empire State is not only behind in legislation on environmental conservation and public health protection but the clean energy leadership Cuomo has touted as well.

“New York is not the first state to adopt the goals in the Clean Energy Standard,” Christian told The Alt. However, he adds, there is value in the process of catching up. “When you look at the nation as a whole, New York is hitting its weight in year over year growth in solar and wind. New York has been in a position to take lessons learned [from other states] in a holistic manner to come up with a cleaner system overall.”

When asked, local advocates tend to name California as the most progressive state in both environment and clean energy standards; its governor, Jerry Brown, was named special envoy to the states for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in mid-June.

I think New York is doing okay but not as good as California,” Judith Enck, former Region 2 EPA advisor, said. “There’s more solar in California than any other state and wind energy is more prevalent on the Great Plains and the midwest. We’re in the right direction but not in the leadership position that I think we need to deal with catastrophic climate change.”

When it comes to national ranking, New York makes the top in a few industries, but doesn’t hit number one.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association 2017 ranking, New York comes in tenth in the top 10 states generating solar power at 927 megawatts, enough to power 152,000 households. Additionally, New York currently ranks fifth in solar jobs with 8,135 employees.

The American Wind Energy Association 2017 reports New York’s installed wind energy capacity at 1,829 megawatts, ranking at thirteenth in the nation.

There are still areas of concern when it comes to clean energy in New York. Developing new industries carry the burden of cost and finding a way to switch over seamlessly doesn’t happen overnight. Recently, Cuomo closed Indian Point nuclear power plant, fearing for the safety of those in the highly populated area of New York City and Long Island. However, the governor issued the bailout of three other upstate facilities and has been criticized by activists for funding an antiquated energy source. Officials have warned that taking away nuclear power altogether–without an alternate energy source to replace it–would give fossil fuel industrial companies the opportunity to move in, setting New York even farther back in carbon emissions.

Additionally, the issue lies in this divide between upstate and downstate New York.

The majority of renewable energy is built upstate and power is at a relatively low cost,” Christian said, referring to the high energy costs of New York City and Long Island. “The question is, what is the state going to do to move renewable energy downstate and bring low costs to New York City?”

Fearing New York will face the same fate as federal environmental regulations, advocates have also raised concerns about the permanency of Cuomo’s executive orders should he leave office.

“California is a leading state in aggressive climate policies because back in 2006 they wrote all of their goals into law, while in New York we’ve done executive actions,” EANY executive director Peter Iwanowicz said. “They’re not permanent actions. Just in the way we are seeing Obama’s climate policies being undone by the new administration, in New York our policies can be unwound by the next governor.”

“There is a difference between applying goals that are not legally enforceable and putting forth a statute,” Bill Samuels said.

The NRDC is not as concerned, believing the benefits clean energy industries have wrought will win over less progressive challengers.

“We’re optimistic that in the case of any new incoming leadership or party, these initiatives will stand the test of time,” Morris said. “Barring some kind of total shift, the job creation and economic shift will be proven ideological. There’s no guarantee but that’s politics.”

There is an overlying awareness when assessing New York’s environmentally progressive work-in-progress that the effects climate change and fossil fuel energy industries have on the environment, infrastructure and public health don’t stop at state lines.

“State policies matter,” Enck said. “If New York can put 100 percent of clean energy in play that would be a tremendous national accomplishment so I’m hopeful that states and cities are stepping up. But the reality is, we can’t have the federal government sitting on the sidelines. And they’re not just sitting on the sidelines, they’re really promoting aggressive policies for drilling of oil and gas on public lands and in our ocean.”

–Katie Cusack 

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Marriage Equality

Perhaps the crowning jewel of Gov. Cuomo’s time in office was the passage of legislation to legalize marriage equality in 2011. Through deft political maneuvering, Cuomo and a group of activists, advocates and political donors were able to sway the Republican-controlled Senate to allow for a vote on the issue while getting some Republicans to vote for the measure. Cuomo at the time promised to protect Republicans who voted for the measure. That protection didn’t pan out as some of them were voted out of office. A number of conservative leaning Republicans still regret that the bill was allowed to come for a vote.

“With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law. With this vote, marriage equality will become a reality in our state, delivering long overdue fairness and legal security to thousands of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement after the bill was passed.

New York was the 6th state to legalize same-sex marriage at the time, following Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Since Cuomo’s 2011 triumph there has been very little action on LGBT issues in the legislature. Advocates moved on to passing the gender expression non-discrimination act or GENDA–a bill designed to prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression. The Republican Senate has blocked the bill for years. In 2015 Cuomo issued a series of regulations using the state Human Rights Law to protect “transgender individuals.”

Critics charge that Cuomo has done next to nothing to support Senate Democrats and instead kept Senate Republicans in power and because of that is at least partially responsible for GENDA not becoming law. The Human Rights Campaign says 19 other states have adopted GENDA protections. Cities across New York, including Albany, have adopted GENDA as law. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi called the criticism “insane” and said that “We can only sign bills that pass.”

–David Howard King 

 

Criminal Justice

“There’s a feeling that the system of criminal justice, the officials in criminal justice system, are too close to law enforcement. And that closeness is a conflict,” Cuomo said on July 8, 2015  when signing an executive order that empowers the Attorney General to take over investigations of police killings of civilians from local District Attorneys. Cuomo was under intense pressure from criminal justice activists, and a group of mothers who lost their sons to police shootings to pass a bill taking investigations out of the hands of local DAs. It came on the heels of a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the choking death of Eric Garner.

Cuomo made the issue a focus of his State of the State Address in 2015 but faced major pushback from Senate Republicans and dissension amongst Democratic legislators who had various ideas on what a special prosecutor bill should do.

Cuomo’s executive order made a splash nationally, and New York remains one out of nine states to take action on investigations into police killings of civilians as of early 2017. Still, advocates would like to see the bill become law. Senate Republicans and DA associations stand firmly against that.

“This governor and this administration will use every tool in the toolbox to help improve the lives of New Yorkers and move this state forward,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in a statement to The Alt.

One of Cuomo’s major achievements from the 2017 legislative session wasn’t a move that put New York ahead of other states in the terms of progressive achievement but instead one that made New York second to last. Cuomo forcefully pushed Raise the Age–an initiative to prevent New York courts from treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. New York and North Carolina were the last states in the union to do so. After major pushback from Senate Republicans and critique from Assembly Democrats, Cuomo successfully navigated a version of the bill through the legislature. The bill diverts the majority of 16- and 16-year-old offenders to family court where judges have more leeway to connect offenders with social services and alternative sentencing programs.

–David Howard King 

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Minimum wage and family leave

The legislative session delivered a one-two punch for Cuomo’s legacy the passage of what was billed as an increase of the minimum wage to $15 and what is still hailed as the strongest paid family leave bill in the nation.

“By moving to a $15 statewide minimum wage and enacting the strongest paid family leave policy in the nation, New York is showing the way forward on economic justice,” said Cuomo when he signed the bill in April of 2016. The increase did serve as a major victory for unions across the country fighting for a $15 minimum wage and was played up by then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

But the increase wasn’t a straight $15 increase. What the bill does is gradually increase the minimum wage in NYC to $15 by 2019. The minimum wage in upstate New York increases to $12.50 by 2021. Upstate New York could eventually reach $15 if the state budget director (who is appointed by Cuomo) decides in 2021 that the incremental increases should go forward. California will increase their minimum wage to $15 by 2022. Cities like Seattle and Los Angeles have also implemented incremental increases.

“We make no apologies for fighting to ensure a decent day’s wage for a decent day’s work and give all New Yorkers a chance at a decent life,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in a statement to The Alt.

In April 2016, New York became the 4th state in the nation to to offer paid family leave–joining Rhode Island, California and New Jersey. When fully phased in, the plan will offer 12 weeks of leave at 2/3rds pay. Rhode Island became the third state to offer paid family leave in 2013–it provides 4 weeks at 60 percent of pay. President Barack Obama praised New York’s law in a statement saying: “Americans shouldn’t need to choose between their families and making ends meet. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s and the state legislature’s leadership, New Yorkers will now move closer to never having to face that choice.”

–David Howard King 

 

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