Dunlea in Utica Calls for Divestment from Fossil Fuels

Dunlea Running for Comptroller to Push Climate Change, Divestment from Fossil Fuels 

Declares NYS Needs a Comptroller Who Will Aggressively Confront Corruption

(Utica, NY) Mark Dunlea, the Green Party candidate for State Comptroller, said today that his main focus on the job, if elected, will be to confront climate change by divesting the state pension funds from fossil fuels.

Dunlea has helped coordinate campaigns for 350.org to divest the New York City and New York State pension funds from fossil fuels. New York City agreed in January to divest its two largest funds, but state action has been opposed by Tom DiNapoli who, as Comptroller, is the sole Trustee of the state fund.

Dunlea also said that two of his other top priorities as Comptroller will be to aggressively target political corruption and relentlessly advocate for progressive tax reform. Dunlea, a former Town Board member in Poestenkill, has long advocated for the state to restore revenue sharing to local governments to its historic level of 8%, which would enable local governments to reduce local property and sales taxes.

The candidate also supports a single payer health care system, whose implementation would enable counties to eliminate the use of property taxes to pay for Medicaid. As Comptroller, he would push the Governor to comply with court rulings to increase funding for schools in inner city and rural areas and push the Governor and the state legislature to raise taxes on the wealthy while lowering taxes for most New Yorkers.

“Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity. It makes no sense to put our state funds into companies that threaten the future existence of our communities and loved ones, especially when the world has agreed to put an end to their present business model,” stated Dunlea.

With governments across the planet phasing out the burning of fossil fuels, Dunlea said the state should divest its $6 billion investment from fossil fuel companies while they still have some value. “Since 350.org and other groups started the divestment campaign five years ago to address global warming, we have convinced more than 700 institutions worldwide to divest more than $6 trillion in funds from fossil fuel companies,” he noted.

Instead of divesting, DiNapoli has pushed for shareholder advocacy despite it having virtually no impact over the past 50 years. Federal security rules also prohibit shareholder resolutions from addressing the core business of a company – such as the need to keep 80% of the fossil fuels in the ground rather than burning it.

350.org commissioned a study several years ago that showed if the state had divested when DiNapoli was first urged by divestment advocates to do so, the pension fund would have an extra $5 billion in revenue.

New York State gets only 4% of its electricity from renewable energy. Dunlea helped draft legislation (Assembly bill 5015) to require New York to move to 100% clean energy by 2030. A study done by researchers at Cornell and Stanford universities shows that such a transition would result in, according to the study, “4.5 million jobs created during construction and 58,000 permanent annual jobs thereafter for the energy facilities,” which equates to about 300,000 40-year jobs.

The Green Party supports the state halting any new development of fossil fuels and instead transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030. Dunlea has helped write legislation to enact a state carbon tax and supports the state suing fossil fuel companies to make them pay for the damage they have caused by fossil fuels. Rhode Island last week filed such a lawsuit; NYC filed a lawsuit back in January 2018.

Dunlea said that the State Comptroller needs to be more aggressive in protecting taxpayers from misuse of tax funds. While a student at Albany Law, Dunlea successfully drafted legislation that gave taxpayers the right to sue over the illegal expenditure of public funds. As an elected Town Board member in Poestenkill, Dunlea cut local property taxes every year while on the board. While Executive Director of Hunger Action Network, Dunlea helped write legislation to increase public accountability for the billions in economic development funds (aka “corporate welfare”) the Governor hands out annually to corporations in the name of job creation. Unfortunately for the great majority of New Yorkers who don’t benefit from such government pork, that legislation has yet to be enacted.

“At the end of the recent legislative session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie sided with Cuomo when the Speaker refused to allow a vote on bills that would have restored oversight of certain state contracts by the State Comptroller and expanded scrutiny of the state’s wasteful corporate economic development programs. Sadly, DiNapoli – who was appointed to his position by the Assembly when his predecessor, Alan Hevesi, resigned due to his own corruption scandal – failed to publicly stand up for taxpayers and demand a vote by the Assembly after the Senate passed the bills,” said Dunlea.

Several years ago, Cuomo managed to get legislation passed that stripped from the Comptroller’s office oversight of contracts involving SUNY. Shortly afterwards, Cuomo administration officials allegedly rigged bids by SUNY for contracts involving the Buffalo Billions project. Administration officials are now on trial for their actions.

Dunlea said that the people need a Comptroller who will confront the epidemic of political corruption in New York State. He said that as Comptroller he would investigate state contracts awarded to campaign contributors—otherwise known as “pay-to-play.” Dunlea said he would not take any funds from individuals who have contracts with the state government and called on DiNapoli and other Comptroller candidates to do the same.  Green Party candidates are already prevented by party rules from taking any corporate donations.

“A campaign donation is still the best investment that Wall Street can make. We need to get money out of politics, starting with banning the practice of pay-to-play. Four years ago the State Comptroller race had a flawed pilot program on public campaign financing that DiNapoli decided not to participate in. It would be great if this time we had a real full public campaign finance pilot,” noted Dunlea.

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