Legalizing marijuana will bring a “good amount of revenue,” Cruz said. She noted that state lawmakers were close to passing the proposal last year, which would have provided important revenue for the state. As for sports betting, Cruz said as the state gets through the recovery process, the sports scene, including eventually bringing fans into venues, will become even more robust, which will lead to increased revenue.
“It can only help with that gap,” she said.
Another way to increase revenue for the state is to raise taxes on the wealthy, which a set of lawmakers have proposed through the Invest in Our New York Act, a package of six bills that legislators say will raise $50 billion annually.
The proposal includes establishing a progressive income tax, capital gains tax, heirs’ tax, billionaires’ tax, Wall Street tax and the repeal of the Trump tax cuts. Cruz said she’s supportive of the legislation, and has already co-sponsored many of the bills in the package. The Queens lawmaker noted that during the pandemic, the wealthy “got even more rich” and have benefitted from the current tax system.
“It’s only fair,” she said. “Pay a little extra to help the rest of the state.”
As the legislative session in Albany continues, Cruz is focused on not just helping small businesses and closing the budget gap, but also finding creative solutions to address food insecurity in her district. Last summer, the assemblywoman turned her district office into a food pantry, providing food to a long line of constituents amid the pandemic.
Cruz said she noticed that their provider and other food pantries like La Jornada were struggling to access even simply necessities like milk. In the early fall, Cruz decided to join an upstate Republican colleague in the Assembly on a tour of his district’s farms.
There, she learned that during the pandemic, many farms had nowhere to sell their produce, milk and meat. She heard stories of farmers pouring milk down the drain and even changing what they were farming to survive.
To address the dual issues of struggling farmers and hungry families, Cuomo implemented the Nourish New York initiative, which allows emergency food providers to purchase surplus products from farmers and dairy manufacturers.
The governor allocated $35 million for the program to fund it through the end of 2020. Cruz noted that Nourish New York is not a permanent program, and that much of its funding came from federal emergency money. Cruz teamed up with Republican State Senator George Borrello on legislation to make the initiative permanent and work out its kinks.
Last month, Cruz invited Borrello to her district to introduce their legislation and to visit La Jornada’s food pantry at the Queens Museum. The lawmaker noted that La Jornada went from serving 1,000 families a week pre-pandemic to 10,000 families a week.
“This was amazing,” she said. “An upstate senator representing farmland and a downstate assembly member representing our food insecurity crisis partnering together to help both sides.”