In ‘People’s State of the State,’ Groups Deliver Own Litmus Test

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Anti-hunger, faith and labor groups rallied outside the Capitol Tuesday, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to prioritize raising the minimum wage, create a system of public financing for elections and restore public education cuts from recent years.

Chanting and waving signs, several speakers delivered the 23rd-annual “People’s State of the State.” They discussed issues they hope to hear Cuomo address Wednesday in his annual speech, through which he will lay out his agenda for the year.

“Tomorrow, the governor delivers his official State of the State, and for some reason, we seldom hear about the problems facing average New Yorkers,” Mark Dunlea, executive director of the Hunger Action Network, said at the rally. “Do you think we’ll hear that New York leads the country in income inequality? Do you think we’ll hear that 50 percent of the children in Schenectady live in poverty? Do you think we’ll hear that 3 million New Yorkers use food pantries and soup kitchens on a regular basis?”

To each of his questions, the crowd shouted, “No!”

The groups also asked Cuomo to ban hydraulic fracturing, prioritize low-income communities during recovery efforts from Superstorm Sandy, boost hunger- and homelessness-prevention programs, improve services for immigrants and legislate tougher guns laws, among others.

The groups created a “litmus test” listing these issues and delivered the list to Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos’ office after the rally.

The “litmus test” is modeled after a list Cuomo compiled in an early-December op-ed piece. In it, he wrote that he would base his support for the power-sharing agreement between Senate Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference on whether lawmakers supported his “progressive agenda.”

Protesters advocated for raising taxes on wealthy New Yorkers and closing tax loopholes that benefit corporations.

“We are the voices for the people who are voiceless in this state, and we need to turn things around,” Susan Kent, president of the state Public Employees Federation, a union, said at the rally. “We will no longer allow corporate greed and politicians who are not actually working for the people to divide us and conquer.”

Also at the rally was a group of students from Myers Middle School in Albany. A teaching assistant in special education at the school, Casey Freeman, said the students attended the rally during a field trip for a family and consumer science course.

The kids, who chanted with group leaders, “Don’t be nuts — stop the cuts,” and “Justice now!,” heard guest speakers in class, wrote research papers and compiled a letter to President Obama on the issues presented during the protest.

See the group’s “litmus test” here:

Litmus

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