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Message to Governor Paterson: Tax Rich Before Axing Government Services

August 18, 2008

Low-income families are extremely vulnerable to economic downturn, and so too are the government programs that help these families afford to eat, care for their children and defend their rights. Governor Paterson has called for $1 billion in cuts to these services, while referring to alternate plans, such as revenue-raising, as a last resort.

Given the robust growth of the gulf between the richest and poorest New Yorkers, lobbyist Anne Erickson and Kristin Brown Lilly are calling on Paterson to save funding for these programs by adding a small surcharge to the income taxes of those state residents who make over $500,000 a year. Questioning the logic of axing services in a time of critical need, Erickson and Brown Lilly note that state funding for legal services for low-income residents have been cut by 75% in the past year, and warn that emergency food programs and childcare assistance will be similarly affected if the current plan is not met with immediate opposition.

The state already cut funding for the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) by 16% in April, further limiting the overtaxed agency’s ability to support statewide soup kitchens and food pantries, and the clients who are forced to rely on their services. Further cuts could be crippling. “The governor’s proposals…will cut to the core of programs and services,” say Erickson and Brown Lilly. “Ensuring access to justice, child care, emergency food and other critical human services should be among our top priorities, not among the first services to be jettisoned in a time of economic downturn.”

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