Thousands of teachers, health care workers, labor unions, and community groups held rallies across New York State yesterday to protest Governor Paterson's budget proposal, which would slash approximately $2.5 billion in education funding, $3.2 billion in health care, and cut billions from programs for senior services, disability services, housing assistance and crisis intervention programs. In downtown Manhattan, rally organizers say some 50,000 people assembled around City Hall, and the crowds forced the NYPD to reduce Broadway to one lane and close side streets.
Jumbo-trons were set up so protesters in the back of the crowd could watch and hear the speakers, many of whom called for "fair tax reform," demanding tax hikes on New Yorkers who earn more than $250,000 per year. Website Urban Elephants has a report from the rally, and argues that "over the past thirty years New York has cut its tax rate for the wealthiest residents by 50% and reduced its top tax rate to 6.85% for anyone earning over $40,000 per year. Such an anomaly has created a tax system where someone making above $40,000 per year pays the same marginal tax rate as someone earning $4 million."
United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten explained the tax reform demand to the crowd: "For those of you who prosper during boom time, we ask them pay a little bit more. Pay a little more so New York can avoid cutting the services that our most vulnerable need." And China Lankford of Jamaica, Queens, sent a message to the governor via Channel 2: "Governor Paterson, I wish you could have an open heart that we are going to suffer if this budget cut goes through."