2016-02-17 / Political Page

Crowley Pleased With Obama Budget Proposal

Congressman Joseph Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus commended President Obama and the proposed 2017 budget that he released last week, stating:

“A budget is a reflection of priorities and values, and in his proposal released today (Feb. 9), the President has laid out a vision to build a better, stronger America for everyone. With a focus on growth, opportunity, and security, the President’s budget includes critical investments in the future; investments that will benefit the people of Queens and The Bronx and our country as a whole.”

Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx), added: “I am particularly pleased the President’s budget focuses on giving hardworking families a hand, including funding to help families manage the high costs of childcare. I recently announced legislation that will put affordable, quality childcare within reach for American families because no parent should have to choose between putting food on the table or knowing their child is well-cared for.

“Financial subsidies can make all the difference for a family that’s struggling to afford childcare, but current funding levels are stagnant, leaving many families and children behind. We should do all we can to help hardworking families, and this budget clearly makes this a priority.”

Changing the subject, Crowley states, “In addition to helping the kids get the right start in life, we must also focus our energies on helping more Americans save for retirement and the future. It’s clear that savings are the path for middle class families to achieve the American Dream, yet that dream is being put at risk. Building on his myRA retirement savings program, I’m pleased the President is continuing to make retirement security a priority. Now is the time for smart, forward-looking ideas to ensure hardworking Americans are able to save for the future and build a nest egg.”

Crowley concluded: “The President’s budget represents progress – not just from where we started, but for where we want to go. I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to move the ideas in the President’s proposal forward and establish an economy that works for everyone.”

MALONEY ALSO APPLAUDS PRESIDENT’S BUDGET: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, another highly regarded Queens lawmaker, also had high praise for President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal “for addressing rape kit backlog and gun violence research,” both Maloney long-time legislative priorities.

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) pointed out in her statement: “President Obama’s 2017 budget is a serious proposal that takes on the big challenges we face in a constructive way. It would support the middle class with new investments in Pell Grants, early childhood education and job training. It would expand tax credits for working families, increase access to child care, expand paid leave, enact comprehensive immigration reform and make strong investments in infrastructure and research.”

Maloney continued, “I am also pleased that the budget provides $10 million in funding for gun violence research. We must work to learn more about the causes of and how to prevent gun violence so that 30,000 Americans don’t die every year at the barrel of a gun. I have introduced legislation with Senator Markey to achieve this goal.”

Maloney also pointed out, “The budget also provides significant funding to test the backlog of rape kits. The backlog has allowed rapists to roam the streets while the evidence to convict them collects dust. The budget provides $117 million in funding for the Debbie Smith Act programs I worked to create, and additional funds to provide resources to local law enforcement for backlog reduction. I hope the Congress again works to provide these desperately needed funds.”

Maloney “applauded” the President “for again putting forward a budget that expresses the real priorities of the American people,” and stated, “I am hopeful that the final budget respects the hard work that went into creating this proposal.”

CROWLEY WOULD MAKE MY RA SAVINGS PERMANENT: In another finance-related matter, Congressman Joseph Crowley (who visited today’s column earlier), reports the introduction of legislation to “codify” into law “the program created by President Obama entitled Making Your Retirement Accessible (myRA) Act (H.R. 4491).

The new law would be called “myRA (my Retirement Account).” Both the proposed new law and the previous one, created by the President and the Treasury Department, were designed “to help American workers save for retirement,” said Crowley, who had earlier called for making the myRA program permanent in his “Building Better Savings, Building Brighter Futures” plan.

Crowley stated: “Americans want to save, and Americans know they should save. The problem is, many workers lack the opportunity to save.” He explained, “Common barriers, like minimum contributions, market fluctuations, and concern about not being able to access savings in case of an emergency can put retirement accounts out of reach for many Americans. The myRA program changes that by giving all workers access to a long-term, stable savings option. I applaud the President and Treasury Department for introducing myRA and making it available to American workers. Now, we must make it permanent so that every worker in the future has a reliable option for saving for retirement.”

Congressman Keith Ellison (D–MN), who co-sponsored the new legislation with Crowley, stated:

“Millions of hard-working Americans are finding it harder and harder to put savings aside for themselves and for their children. For many of these Americans, their workplace doesn’t offer retirement investment plans. The myRA program solves that by offering an investment option with no minimum balance, no cost, and stable returns. Making the program permanent will finally allow these families to build their nest egg, as myRA, along with Social Security, holds up the promise of retirement security.”

Many workers that are currently not saving for their future say they recognize the importance of saving for retirement or other potential needs, but for a variety of reasons are not using existing vehicles. Reasons can include the inability to meet minimum contributions, concerns about fees and fluctuations in the market, worry over not being able to tap into funds in an emergency, and not having access to an employer-sponsored savings plan.

The myRA program addresses these concerns and other common barriers to saving for retirement. The program allows a worker to open an account with as little as $1, and gives them the ability to make automatic payments every pay period. The funds invested go solely into US savings bonds, ensuring these accounts remain stable, not at risk in the market. Further, the accounts do not have any associated maintenance charges or fees, which means every dollar that is invested will be returned – plus interest – to the account holder. myRA also helps address one of the biggest saving deterrents out there by allowing access to these funds for emergencies. Without taxes and penalties for withdrawing funds, these accounts can act as an emergency rainy-day fund, as well as a future retirement account. And because myRA will invest solely in US savings bonds, there’s no risk of losing value in the market.

Announced last spring, Crowley’s “Building Better Savings, Building Brighter Futures” plan will make Americans more financially secure throughout their lifetimes by creating new financial options that encourage personal saving, expanding employer-provided retirement plans, and strengthening Social Security. Crowley released a detailed blueprint for the plan, which can be found at www.crowley.house.gov. in the related press release.

GIANARIS CALLS FOR CITYWIDE REVIEW OF SEWAGE SYSTEMS NEAR WATERWAYS: State Senator Michael Gianaris is demanding an “immediate and comprehensive city-wide review” of all properties adjacent to waterways following the recent discovery that sewage from Astoria Park bathrooms has been leaking into the East River for more than 80 years.

Gianaris issued the request to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), after declaring, “Untold environmental damage has been done to our waterways over several decades due to sewage pumping directly into our waters.”

The lawmaker added: “Now that this possibility has been discovered, it is critical that we ensure similar situations do not exist elsewhere in the city.”

Gianaris stated, “Since the 1930s, sewage from the Astoria Park pool and Charybdis Playground bathroom facilities, have been dumped directly into the East River. Currently, restroom facilities at Charybdis Playground are closed and will reopen in 2019.”

Gianaris is one of New York's environmental leaders, having written the state’s Clean Energy Law, and encouraging the reduction of pollution and the ensuring of safe and reliable water supply. Additionally, Gianaris’ advocacy for enhanced environmental protections have reshaped New York’s fight against climate change and have helped to maintain eco-friendly communities.

A letter has been sent to the Department of Environmental Protection calling for this review.

TRUMP, SANDERS WINS COULD BE BALANCED OUT: Following Donald Trump’s victory in the New Hampshire primary eight days ago, the candidate was obviously so excited by the outcome that he treated it as if the search was over and he was ready to be crowned as the Republican Party presidential candidate of 2016.

The same could be said about Bernie Sanders, the Democrat, who was scoring his first victory, a truly impressive one over Hillary Clinton, after the previous clash in Iowa resulted in a virtual tie between them.

In both cases, in New Hampshire one would think Trump and Sanders were taking bows after the 50th state primary had been completed. But the reality is that this Saturday’s primary in South Carolina could produce victories for Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, the respective Democratic and Republican seekers of their parties’ presidential nominations.

In Cruz’ case, his victory in Iowa was set up as Cruz marshaled a force of voters represented by the Evangelical Christian population in that state, and in lock step, they turned out in force to fuel Cruz’ victory over Trump. Trump was aware of Cruz’ plan, but couldn’t do anything to counteract it.

In the Saturday, February 20 South Carolina GOP primary, Cruz is preparing a replay of the Iowa situation because there is a sizeable Evangelical Christian population in South Carolina also. Again, that group is fiercely loyal to Cruz and there is no reason to believe there would be any defections to Trump or any of the other GOP candidates running there on Saturday.

Besides Trump and Cruz, also running will be Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, Jeb Bush also of Florida, and Ben Carson. In New Hampshire, they finished Trump, Kasich, Cruz, Bush, Rubio and Carson, not counting candidates who have since withdrawn.

In the South Carolina Democratic primary, which is set for Saturday, February 27, the major difference in the electorate is the black vote factor which was not present in Iowa and New Hampshire. Which explains Sanders’ meeting several days ago with Al Sharpton and Clinton’s endorsement by the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee last Thursday. Reportedly, African Americans in South Carolina make up more than half the vote, which could be a game changer for Clinton. Congressman Gregory Meeks of Queens chaired the endorsement group.

The endorsement could help Clinton in several other southern states where primaries will be held in March and April.

STAVISKY ‘DISMAYED’ WITH RESIDENCE CONTRACT: A contract was recently approved for the Boulevard Family Residence in Elmhurst, sparking this response by state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Flushing):

“Although the addendums made to the Boulevard Family Residence at the former Pan American hotel will hold Samaritan Village accountable for developing a more adequate residence for families, I am dismayed,” Stavisky stated.

“The shelter was opened under controversial circumstances, with little to no information being shared with the public prior. For months, I have met with and worked alongside Comptroller Scott Stringer, the mayor’s office, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and members of the Elmhurst community to ensure the families within the Boulevard Residence are taken care of properly and the neighborhood’s thoughts are heard. While I still have concerns – there are hundreds of children being sent to School District 24, the most overcrowded district in the city and the building has been hit with a number of violations – I understand the comptroller has exercised all of his options and I thank him for his commitment. Though the contract may be signed, trust that I will continue to push for improvements at the Boulevard Family Residence until it is a suitable and safe facility for the families residing there.”

RIDERS ALLIANCE APPLAUDS ROLLOUT OF BUS STOP COUNTDOWN CLOCKS: In Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City address, he announced that the city will install 350 bus countdown clocks around the city by 2017. In addition to funds already allocated by members of the City Council, covering clocks is provided in their respective districts, Mayor de Blasio committed additional funds for bus stop countdown clocks.

In response, the Riders Alliance which advocated for and secured funding from councilmembers for countdown clocks in the city’s 2014 and 2015 budgets, issued the following statement:

“Today, the Mayor has joined the City Council in showing a real commitment to helping riders – especially low-income riders and seniors, who often do not have smartphones – get around New York City,” said Rebecca Bailin, Campaign Manager with the Riders Alliance.

“Riders Alliance members began requesting bus stop countdown clocks in 2013 because they’re a simple way to make bus travel more convenient. Now, thanks to the Mayor and City Council, bus riders will soon see over 350 countdown clocks installed citywide. Knowing when your bus is about to arrive makes an often arduous trip a lot easier to handle. We’re looking forward to seeing bus countdown clocks get installed.”

The following Queens Councilmembers have dedicated funds to bus stop countdown clocks:

In 2015: Councilmembers Julissa Ferreras (Corona) $229,000; Jimmy Van Bramer (Sunnyside) $100,000; and in 2014, Eric Ulrich (Ozone Park) $180,000; Mark Weprin (Fresh Meadows) $35,000.

CONSTANTINIDES SLAMS SUPREME COURT FOR BLOCKING OBAMA’S POWER PLAN: Councilman Costa Constantinides (D–Astoria) issued the following statement last Thursday (Feb. 11).

Constantinides, Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee stated:

“The Supreme Court’s decision to stay President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is extremely disappointing and a deep setback in our nation’s efforts to combat climate change. The President’s plan lowers carbon emissions and reduces pollution while it raises the ceiling for the Green Jobs revolution. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the future of our planet lies in the balance as this court battle could continue beyond the 2016 election and potential new appointments to the Supreme Court. I hope this case is settled quickly and the Clean Power Plan is validated so that we can continue our efforts to combat climate change.”

OK ADDABBO BILL; KEEPs SEX OFFENDERS OUT OF SHELTERS HOUSING CHILDREN: The Senate has approved Senator Joseph Addabbo’s bill to keep dangerous sex offenders from being placed in shelters or other temporary accommodations that house homeless families with children.

“Innocent little kids who are one step away from living on the streets should never face the additional horror of living side by side with potential sexual predators,” said Addabbo (D–Howard Beach).

To be clear, Addabbo specifies in the bill that the grown persons he’s referring to are Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders.

Addabbo noted: “When families tragically end up homeless, for any number of reasons, and find themselves trying to rebuild their lives while living in shelters or other temporary housing, they shouldn’t have to worry about their overall safety or be frightened for the welfare of their vulnerable children.”

The lawmaker explained: “Convicted Level 2 and 3 sex offenders, who have committed the most serious sex crimes and are most likely to strike again, should not be allowed around children. They should be sheltered in housing that is more appropriate to their criminal background.”

Under the bill, Addabbo explained, convicted Level 2 and 3 sex offenders would only be placed in homeless shelters and other temporary housing with other adults, and not with any families with children. Level 2 offenders are classified as those with a “moderate risk of repeat offense,” and Level 3 offenders are designated as those who represent a “high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety.”

Addabbo said there have been instances throughout the years locally and citywide where sex offenders have been found living in homeless shelters where they could represent a serious risk to children.

“It wasn’t that long ago that sex offenders were removed from the Skyway Men’s Shelter in South Ozone Park, which was converted from a family shelter and located in close proximity to a school,” he pointed out. “In addition, there have been more recent reports that sex offenders are housed in family shelters throughout the city, which is very worrisome on many levels.”

Addabbo said a 2015 report by NYS Senator Jeff Klein (D–Bronx), the prime sponsor of the legislation recently approved by the Senate, said that four known sex offenders were living in family shelters in Queens, with almost a dozen housed in other family shelters citywide.

Addabbo said the present legislation has been approved by the Senate several times but not the Assembly and he hopes they approve it now.

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