Friday, 20 January 2012 00:00
On Monday, Jan. 16, we once again honored one of our nation’s greatest civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His passion for equality and opportunity for all, coupled with the courage with which he opposed social injustice, continue to serve as an example for us all. I’m committed to helping his legacy live on through my work in the Assembly. While we made some important strides toward that end, we still have much work to do.
In his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, Dr. King said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”
Unfortunately, that idea of equality, fairness and opportunity is still out of reach for too many hardworking New Yorkers. Many people living in poverty and without financial security have real barriers in their way to climbing out of this situation. And America’s promise of a better life gets further out of reach. That’s why the assembly majority unveiled a multi-faceted plan to rebuild the ladder to economic security. There are three tenets to the plan:
-increase the minimum wage;
-meet the statutory state commitment of 40 percent of the operational budgets of our community colleges. Despite the law, only once in four decades has the state fully met that obligation; and
-cut income taxes for working families earning less than $30,000 annually and eliminate taxes for working families earning less than $25,000.
As Dr. King once said, “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” Paying people a fair wage to work, eliminating or lowering taxes for those too poor to afford them and increasing college opportunities for those who want to get ahead are ideas our society should embrace.
While we keep pushing forward, it’s important to note what we’ve already accomplished. Creating jobs is one of my top priorities in the assembly, and we made progress in December by approving $61 million to fund various jobs programs, including the Summer Youth Employment Program ($25 million), the Youth Employment Readiness Training Program ($12 million) and the Displaced Homemaker Program ($2.5 million).
These programs are essential in preparing residents to enter or reenter the workforce. Additionally, this historic legislation will help New York’s hardworking middle-class families by cutting taxes, creating jobs and eliminating a tax cut for millionaires (Ch. 55 and 56 of 2011).
Throughout this year’s legislative session, I will keep in mind the basic principles that Dr. King fought tirelessly for and ultimately gave his life trying to achieve – fairness and equality for all. We can properly honor Dr. King’s memory by building a ladder to financial stability for the many New Yorkers who have been left behind during our state’s economic struggles.