The Democrats’ package is a jumbled mess less targeted towards COVID-relief and more so a mechanism for funding their ever-growing progressive wish list.
As published in the Staten Island Advance
As a new Member of Congress, President Biden’s current $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package puts me in a quandary. While there are many components of the bill that I support, like providing aid to restaurants and small businesses that were mandated to close and providing assistance for the unemployed, and returning taxpayer money to citizens in the form of a “stimulus” check, it is in no way tailored to the specific needs of our nation or its struggling citizens.
The Democrats’ package is a jumbled mess less targeted towards COVID-relief and more so a mechanism for funding their ever-growing progressive wish list. It is a massive spending bill that authorizes $1.9 trillion with little accountability, all as our nation approaches $30 trillion in debt and $1 trillion in funds remain unspent from previous relief packages.
A Wall Street Journal analysis found that just $825 billion of the $1.9 trillion in spending are actual COVID-related expenditures. Some of the pork includes $1 billion in unrelated transportation projects including $100 million Speaker Pelosi included for an underground rail line extension of the Bay Area Ridge Transit System, $270 million for arts and humanities endowments, $750 million for global programs, and $50 million for family planning. These expenditures are neither COVID-related nor an emergency. What they are is another example of government thinking they know how to spend your money better than you do.
Meanwhile, vaccine production and distribution, which is a top priority for getting our nation back on track, is less than 1%, showing just how bloated this bill is.
It also contains repetitive or unnecessary spending. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated it would cost $25 billion to reopen America’s schools safely. So far, Congress has allocated $68 billion, and now, Democrats want to spend $130 billion more. Only under a mismanaged government do things end up costing eight times more than originally estimated.
To put it plainly, it is DC political spin to call this a pandemic relief bill. It’s more like one big blank check for the Biden Administration. Now it appears President Biden has changed the formula from previous bills and instead of giving states funding based on population, they are doling it out based on unemployment rates. This means Governor Cuomo, who oversees the state with the highest unemployment, will be rewarded for his business crushing restrictions and excessive shutdowns to the tune of $50 billion. But will struggling citizens and small businesses hanging onto a thread see any of it?
They say the best stimulus is a reopened economy and the best relief is a steady paycheck. I agree, but I also understand the financial impact the last several months have placed on local budgets. Of course, as a New Yorker, I want my city and state to receive federal funds, but I also want accountability.
New York City and State have a long history of misusing taxpayer money. Look no further than the increased homelessness and crime raging on our streets, or the disrepair of our roads and highways. Where did the billions that the mayor allocated for Thrive NYC or his Renewal Schools program really go? Why has New York State not fully reopened our schools despite taking $4 billion in federal aid to do so?
The mayor and governor have imposed some of the highest taxes in the country on the working men and women of our state. These tax increases have triggered a mass exodus of taxpayers to states like Florida and Texas that have no personal income tax. According to the Empire Center for Public Policy, between 2010 and 2019, New York State lost upwards of 1.4 million residents to other states, and sadly, COVID-19 has only exacerbated this loss. And we all know that when high-income earners leave, it is the rest of us, the middle-class, who are left carrying the bag.
Governor Cuomo has already threatened to increase personal income taxes, Mayor de Blasio almost certainly plans to increase the property tax levy and the MTA Board (controlled by both the mayor and the governor) just voted to increase tolls on its New York City bridges – including the Verrazzano Bridge – despite receiving $8 billion in federal aid thus far with billions more on the way.
Last week I wrote to Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo asking them for a commitment to not raise income taxes and the property tax levy if they receive federal aid and use a portion of the funds to stop the toll increases and provide relief to the small businesses they shut down. So far, my calls have gone unanswered, but I’ll keep pushing.
The worst thing the governor and mayor could do is accept the federal aid and still move forward with their anticipated toll and tax increases. It would not only be double-dipping on the part of the city and state governments, but it would be a slap in the face to our middle-class families who are struggling to get by during this pandemic and can’t afford increases to their daily cost of living.
Cuomo and de Blasio can’t have their cake and eat it too. But if everyone’s looking the other way, that may be what exactly what they do.