A vital part of the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York’s work includes public education and mobilization around the federal and state budgets. The broad goals of our federal and state budget work are the same: to ensure spending policies that adequately meet the needs of low and moderate income people and people of color in particular and supporting investments in such vital programs as education, after-school, health care, and low-income energy assistance. We also focus on documenting the need for fair tax policies that place the greatest burden of taxation on people who can afford it the most (known as “progressive taxation”).
Federal Budget and Tax Work
Until the election of the new Democratic-controlled Congress in 2006 and the historic election of President Obama in 2008, our focus was opposing moves by conservatives to take apart America’s social “safety net” and to make tax cuts for the rich and big corporations. For example, we helped to educate the public and policy-makers about the dangers of the outrageous attempts by the right-wing to privatize Social Security. And in 2006 and 2008, PPEF conducted massive voter registration and public education campaigns, making contacts with thousands of voters to educate them on our issues and the importance of participating in the elections.
In 2009, we began to have the opportunity for the first time to begin to make concrete improvements that would address people’s most basic needs, beginning with health care reform. In 2009, PPEF continued its historic work, in conjunction with our national affiliate, USAction Education Fund, to advocate for health care for all and a humane federal budget that ensures that the most critical human needs are met. We released several reports, did extensive trainings around the state, and authored numerous op-eds and letters to the editor making the case that adequate federal funding, funded by progressive taxation, was necessary to fund health care reform and other vital human needs like education. PPEF and its partners also helped make the case against weakening the estate tax, the only tax on wealth in the United States. As a result of these education efforts, Congress provided small but important increases in funding for basic human needs programs in the final 2010 federal budget despite the federal deficit.
State Budget and Tax Work
For years, PPEF has worked with a wide range of partners to advocate for adequate funding in the state budget for priorities like education and health care and for a progressive tax system. In 2009, as a result of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Governor proposed cuts to a wide array of critical programs. Most significantly, he proposed historic increases in education funding promised in response to a court order finding that New York had unconstitutionally underfunded “high-need” school districts. PPEF helped to lead the successful effort to make the case for the value of a tax surcharge on high income individuals, resulting in the mitigation of some of the Governor’s proposed cuts (although the proposed education funding increases were sustained by the Legislature). Since the state was still in a financial crisis as the end of 2009, PPEF is continuing its efforts to oppose balancing the state budget on the backs of its most vulnerable residents, including the poor, children, and people of color.