The Real Facts About the IDC

[Recently, Senator Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) published an Op-Ed in the Riverdale Press purporting to give the “real facts” about the IDC (,62344). We’ve fixed a few errors he made in his piece.]

Facts Matter.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen on the national level, there’s an abundance of misinformation that threatens the political truth. And we would be naïve to assume our state is immune to such inaccuracies.

For the record, the Independent Democratic Conference — lead by Jeff Klein — is comprised of eight “Democrats” who share one common goal: To empower the Senate Republicans and ensure that progressive policies that improve the lives of working and middle class New Yorkers never see the light of day.

And this coalition — they sit on the sidelines and spew rhetoric. For instance, the Reproductive Health Act, which ensures that women in New York can obtain abortion care when a pregnancy puts their health in danger, has never reached a vote in the Senate because the IDC’s GOP partners are anti-reproductive rights. The IDC claims to be the only pro-choice caucus, but never has to prove this statement.

This year the IDC claimed a lot of victories in the budget that were really watered-down versions of strong progressive bills. They took a victory tour touting Raise the Age, but the law contains loopholes that keeps kids in criminal court in too many circumstances. The IDC secured a small, one time grant for immigrant legal defense; meanwhile, a dirt trail in upstate New York got over seven times the funding as this program. The IDC also failed to secure a phase-in of the $4.3 billion in Foundation Aid owed to public schoolchildren.

The list of budget failures goes on — like the IDC’s inability to deliver DREAM Act, which would have allowed undocumented students to access state financial aid programs.

When the IDC returns to Albany, they will continue to scuttle important pieces of legislation, like Liberty Act, which would make New York a sanctuary state. Moreover, the IDC will craft and introduce more bills that please their campaign donors, like raising the cap on charter schools in New York City.

The reason legislation like raising the charter cap, or tax rebates for real estate developers, sees the light of day is due to the simple fact that the IDC has made sure that the mainline Democrats don’t hold a majority.

As it stands, there are 31 Democratic Senators in the state senate (and there will soon be 32 after a Special Election in May to fill Bill Perkins’ seat). One sits with the Republicans, and the IDC likes to blame the Republican majority on him, but in truth he has said “If I had an ability to serve with the majority in the Democratic Conference, I would be happy to be there….The Democrats who have really ruined the opportunity for there to be a Democratic majority is the IDC.” So in reality, if the IDC joined the mainline Democrats, Senator Felder probably would as well, and then there would be a Democratic majority.

But even if the Democrats had 33 seats, or 35 seats, the IDC wouldn’t caucus with them. This happened in 2012, when the Democrats won 33 seats in the Senate — the IDC still chose to work with the Republicans.

By remaining “independent,” the IDC is able to obtain money, perks and power for themselves that they would never get if they effectively pushed a truly progressive agenda. Instead, they “co-sponsor” legislation knowing it will never reach a full Senate vote. This allows them to appear progressive without ever having to prove it.

The concerns of the IDC’s constituents are not nearly as dear to their hearts as the concerns of their campaign donors. That’s why they’ve recently signed onto bills they know their constituents support, but that they also know will never reach a full vote in the Senate. The Reproductive Health Act is one of them. The IDC’s Republicans partners don’t want to protect a woman’s fundamental right to make vital decisions regarding her reproductive health, so they add their names to the list of RHA co-sponsors, but won’t work to round up support for it.

On the health care front, the New York Health Act would provide comprehensive universal health care for every New Yorker. Though everyone in the IDC co-sponsors it, it still won’t reach a vote. This is thanks to IDC’s power sharing arrangement with the Republicans, who will ensure the New York Health Act dies in committee.

These are the facts.

Actions speak louder than words — and evidenced by how little the IDC was able to pass in this year’s state budget, we prefer the latter.