Income inequality is one of the greatest challenges we face in the United States and there is no place where this is more obvious than New York.
New York’s shrinking middle class is a crisis that must be addressed. While rents keep going up, income remains flat for most New Yorkers. From Bay Ridge to Brighton Beach, people cannot afford to live in their neighborhoods anymore. Parents who planned on raising their children where they grew up themselves, find that they cannot afford to stay in their own neighborhood. Everything has become too expensive. Seniors see their children unable to stay nearby and far too often find themselves unable to afford even the most modest apartment.
Here are five key proposals that Chris McCreight believes the Democratic Party must do on the local level to help the middle class in Brooklyn:
1) Fix the Unfair Property Tax Assessment System in New York City.
Right now, Bay Ridge are assessed at a higher rate than homeowners in other neighborhoods like Park Slope. Make sense? Of course not! Bay Ridge is assessed over 4% of market value when, in Park Slope, it is closer to 1%! Not only does it not make sense, it is just not fair. This must be remedied immediately.
2) Create Policies That Allow Small Businesses to Succeed.
Small businesses do not just provide our neighborhoods their unique character. From 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge to 13th Avenue in Dyker Heights to Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, mom and pop shops employ thousands of people. Small business owners are the economic engine of America and we need policies that allow them to thrive. We must stop overburdening them with fees and unfair tax policies.
3) Raise the Minimum Wage to $15 per Hour and Index It to Inflation.
While waiting on the Federal government to act, New York must increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour. It’s a myth that most people making minimum wage are high school and college students. Almost 90% of workers making minimum wage are over 20 years old. Over 50% of all minimum wage workers are adult woman. Raising a family on $15 per hour would still be difficult, but it would certainly be easier than the current $9 minimum wage. Finally, we have to go one step further than $15 per hour: We must index the minimum wage to inflation.
4) Pass Universal Health Care in New York.
Last year, the New York State Assembly passed the New York Health Act. Unfortunately, it did not even come up for a vote in the Republican-controlled State Senate. A bill like this would help lower health care costs for the middle class without burdening the state financially. With this plan, there would be no co-pays or deductibles, often a hurdle people face before even considering going to see a doctor.
5) Reinstate the Commuter Tax.
Until 1999, commuters from the suburbs paid a small tax for the use of New York City’s services (Fire, Police, and Transit). This tax on suburban workers (not New York City residents) was removed in a misguided political backroom deal. If reinstated, New Yorkers will no longer see subway fares and bridge tolls skyrocket. It will take strong political will to resurrect the Commuter Tax but it is the right thing to do for all New Yorkers.
But wait, there's one more:
6) Pass Meaningful Campaign Finance Reform.
We need to end the rigged system where campaign contributors and lobbyists influence politicians with their money. Passing legislation should be beneficial to all New Yorkers, not just special interests.