October 26, 2011
By Bendix Anderson
New York State Assemblyman William Colton has made it his mission to solve problems for constituents.
The people who live in Colton’s district in Brooklyn, N.Y., call with their questions and concerns, line up in the chairs outside of his office and sometimes send him texts on his personal cell phone. A few minutes into an interview with Colton, an assistant knocked on the door: A constituent needed help with some forms.
Colton continues the fight for his district’s largely working-class voters at the State Capitol. “There is a real attack,” Colton said. “It’s an orchestrated attempt to blame working people for the recession.” Over three years of constant budget crisis, Colton has fought against proposed cuts to education, pensions, seniors’ centers and social programs across the board.
“That won’t fly in the Assembly,” said Colton, who describes the State Assembly as the People’s House. “Sometimes you’re preventing things from being passed,” he said. “We would have detrimental pension reform if not for the Assembly.”
Currently, Colton is fighting to restore funding more than 100 seniors centers that will close if current proposals are implemented. Seniors centers provide services and support to elderly people who otherwise could require much more intensive — and expensive — services in formal seniors housing.
Colton is also fighting to restore funding to education. Despite a court mandate, recent cuts all but erased the $5 billion over five years budgeted to “high needs” schools to make up for years of neglect. The state university system also faces proposed cuts of 5 percent a year for the next four years.
Instead of cuts, Colton supports solving our state’s budget problems with new revenue. “Consider extending a small assessment on people earning a million a year or more,” he said in support of a current proposal by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. A recent poll by Siena College found 72 percent of New York voters support the extending a current tax on people earning over $200,000 a year to avoid further budget cuts.
Colton also has a long history fighting for unions. “I’ve always been on the picket lines,” he said. He’s marched with transit workers, with striking Verizon employees and, of course, with teachers. Before Colton joined the Assembly 15 years ago, was a New York City public school teacher for 11 years and was a chapter chairperson with the United Teacher’s Federation of six of those years.