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Group says GOP leaders are for the birds
Working Families Party protests state, city budget cuts proposed by Pataki

Staten Island Advance: Friday, April 18, 2003

By TOM WROBLESKI

The state Working Families Party wants GOP lawmakers to "get their heads out of the sand" and confront the fiscal problems facing the state and city.

And what better way to get that message across than by having someone dressed as an ostrich handing out leaflets to commuters returning home from work?

Staten Island Working Families Party (WFP) members and representatives of other groups were joined by "Ozzie the Ostrich" at the St. George Ferry Terminal yesterday to protest budget cuts proposed by Gov. George E. Pataki. They called on the state to implement a number of measures to raise revenues, including reinstating the stock transfer tax.

The demonstration was part of a citywide effort to put pressure on state Senate Republicans, including Island Sen. John Marchi.

Borough WFP chairman Frank O'Connor said restoring the transfer tax, which was suspended in 1981, would raise about $4 billion. The state is facing an $11 billion budget deficit while the city's hole is about $3.8 billion.

O'Connor, of Sunnyside, said the party would like to see the proceeds from the transfer tax split evenly between the city and state. Other plans call for 20 percent of the proceeds to be returned to Wall Street.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is opposed to the tax, believing it would be too easy for companies to avoid it by making stock purchases electronically from outside the country.

O'Connor said the Legislature should also move to close corporate tax loopholes.

"We're not saying tax them out of the city," he said. "They should just pay their fair share."

Said state WFP committee member Ed Wlody of St. George: "Corporations really did very well in the 1990s. What we're asking them to kick in is peanuts."

The WFP also wants income taxes raised on those making $100,000 or more a year, and, like Bloomberg and other city officials, wants to see the commuter tax restored.

"We can't ask working people for another increase in their taxes," said Wlody. "They don't know if they're going to be working in six months."

Pataki has proposed a $1.7 billion cut to education, and $2 billion in cuts to health care programs. Pataki has resisted raising taxes, saying they would lead to greater unemployment.

"We're here to tell Governor Pataki and Senator Marchi that these cuts are what's going to kill jobs," said Annabelle Heckler of the New York Unemployment Project.

Marchi spokesman Jerry McLaughlin said Marchi would consider restoring the commuter tax under the right circumstances.

"He has never hesitated to vote for a tax if he thought it was the right thing to do," said McLaughlin. "If it takes a combination of cuts and taxes [to pass a budget], he would consider it."

Tom Wrobleski covers politics for the Advance. He may be reached at wrobleski@siadvance.com.

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