Spotlight Exclusives

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer Writes for Spotlight””

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When we talk about eradicating poverty and increasing economic opportunity, one segment of our population is far too often forgotten: the families that are neither firmly established in the middle class nor fully supported by the social safety net.

These families work hard and play by the rules. But all too often they are swimming against a powerful tide when striving for a better life. High costsproperty taxes, health insurance, housing, child care, and other essentialshave created a “perfect storm of unaffordability” that prevents these families from getting ahead, even if they work multiple jobs. And no matter how hard they work, they live with the constant fear of being pulled into poverty by a single unexpected crisis such as an illness, an injury, a sudden layoff, or a sick child.

That is why I have recently put forward an “economic security agenda”to help lift these struggling families into the middle class and to protect those middle-class families who are in danger of slipping down the economic ladder.

To achieve this goal, first and foremost, we are taking action to address the perfect storm of unaffordability. In New York, we have begun that process with the largest property tax cut in state historytargeted at middle- and low-income homeowners who need it most. We are also helping homeowners with risky mortgages to refinance and avoid foreclosure; constructing more affordable housing; and providing tax credits for child care to low-income working families.

Obtaining health insurance is an absolute necessity for economic security. Without it, even one illness can wipe out a family۪s savings and force them into poverty. That is why we are laying the building blocks for universal health insurance. As part of this, we have put forth a plan to offer affordable health insurance to every one of New York۪s 400,000 uninsured children.

Another essential part of our economic security agenda is strengthening the safety net for low-income families. In New York, we are offering new ways to enroll eligible families in the Food Stamp program. We are also increasing workers۪ compensation benefits, increasing enforcement to protect workers rights and working to pass legislation offering paid family leave for individuals who take time off work to take care of new child or sick relative.

Economic survival in the highly competitive Knowledge Economy of the 21st century demands a quality education. We must provide better educational opportunities so struggling New Yorkers can climb up the employment ladder into jobs that offer lasting economic security. We have made the largest investment in education in New York State۪s historyincreasing funding by $1.8 billion, or 10 percent, this year alonetied to reform and accountability for results. As part of this investment, we are implementing universal pre-kindergarten; investing more funding in secondary education; finding ways to make college more affordable and increasing access to workforce training opportunities.

Finally, the best way to eradicate poverty is building a vibrant economy that creates high-paying jobs. We must ensure that opportunities exist for every person willing to work. In New York, we are working to create high-paying jobs for all New Yorkers by adapting to the Knowledge Economy; reducing the cost of doing business; and strengthening our infrastructure, all of which will enable our state to thrive in the 21st century economy.

Through these initiatives on our “economic security agenda,” we are working to lift thousands of New Yorkers out of poverty and into the middle classand to protect those middle-class New Yorkers from slipping down the economic latter. That is the challenge we can and must meet.

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