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Empire State Debates State of Union 'Stimulus'

January 29, 2008

Albany, NY - President Bush delivered his "State of the Union" speech last night, with an emphasis on an economic stimulus package featuring tax cuts and rebates. But Karen Scharff with the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York says the president has the wrong priorities for the Empire State.

"Bush wants to spend money on the war in Iraq and business tax cuts. We hope that the Senate will add more funds for unemployment insurance, food stamps, aid to states and cities, and really direct stimulus money at New Yorkers who need it and who will spend it immediately."

Avis Jones DeWeever with the Public Policy and Information Center for African American Women believes the $150 billion compromise stimulus package currently in the House is misdirected to the rich. She calls it "trickle-down on steroids."

"It gives the highest level of tax refunds to individuals who are making the largest amounts of money. The working poor get a refund check that is about half that. And we've gone through tax cuts for the wealthiest, including corporations. That strategy has gotten us into the problem that we're in right now."

Scharff believes New York's underemployed are the ones who need relief the most, and would spend new emergency funds most productively for the state economy.

"People who are unemployed need jobs, and they also need unemployment benefits to help them until they find jobs. Benefits need to be increased, and people need greater access to food stamps. They need to spend it on food, and that in itself will stimulate the economy."

DeWeever says that if the president's economic plan can't make it in New York, it won't make it anywhere.

"New York is like a microcosm of the nation. Frankly, you have a very high concentration of poverty and people who are working poor. And everybody knows the cost of living in New York is through the roof. Basically, the problems are exacerbated for people who live in New York."

DeWeever hopes the Senate will to do more to help New York's working poor when it takes up the economic stimulus package this week.

Robert Knight/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NY