By Madina Toure
The Independent Democratic Conference Monday launched its 2015-16 policy agenda, a 15-point plan designed to tackle everything from minimum wage to public housing revitalization in New York.
The IDC is unveiling what it calls 15 smart investments that target issues affecting workers, students, seniors and families. The program called “Invest New York”also includes investments in housing, schools and communities.
“It’s a matter of putting New York state taxpayer dollars to good use and planning for the future,” state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said.
The IDC is a five-member faction of breakaway Democrats. Its current members are Avella; Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), IDC head; Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester); Sen. David Valesky (D-Oneida); and Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn).
The agenda includes raising the minimum wage, establishing paid family leav, raising temporary disability insurance benefits, student loan debt relief and prepaid college tuition and public housing revitalization, an agricultural resurgency program, a middle-income housing tax credit and enhanced funding for Mitchell-Lama 2020.
The IDC is calling for cities and counties to be given power to increase their local minimum wages by up to 30 percent higher, to a maximum of $11.70 per hour, compared with the current state minimum wage at $9.
In his 2015-16 budget proposal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for raising the statewide minimum wage to $10.50 an hour from $8.75 by the end of 2016. He also proposed raising the city’s minimum wage to $11.50.
The group is also pushing for the adoption of a paid family leave program that would allow public and private sector employees to claim a weekly benefit for up to six weeks per year equivalent to half their weekly wage so they can take care of a new child or a sick loved one. A bill sponsored by Avella would allow workers to use accrued sick time benefits.
Proposals also include a $2,000 grant for students who graduated from an undergraduate or graduate school based in New York and are employed in public service in the state, a 10 percent discount on senior DMV transactions and a three-point plan that would provide funds for the New York City Housing Authority to renovate and maintain current units.
The plan also targets victims of domestic violence and disabled veterans, who make up a large portion of the homeless population, Avella said.
Last month, the IDC unveiled out a plan titled “A New Deal for New York” proposing the formation of an Empire Public Works Revolving Loan Fund, investing $3.5 billion into projects and create thousands of private sector jobs. The plan also called for using $1.5 billion to create a Community Jobs Program.
The proposal was announced after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s postponement of the annual State of the State Address to Jan. 21 delayed the schedule of the entire Senate body. Avella hopes the proposals will come to fruition.
“We’ve tried to come up with a comprehensive program and I think hopefully we can get the governor and the other members of the Senate and the Assembly to agree with us,” he said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.