Senate Deputy Leader Gianaris Passes Two Bills Aimed at Fighting for a Fairer Economy for All
Senate Passes Gianaris Bills Overhauling New York’s Antitrust Laws, Ending Wasteful Opportunity Zone Tax Break
ALBANY, N.Y. – Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced the Senate passed two of his bills aimed at making New York’s economy fairer for working people. The first bill, the 21st Cenutry Antitrust Act (S.933-A/A.1812) is a comprehensive overhaul of New York’s deeply outdated antitrust laws. The second bill ends state tax breaks for the Qualified Opportunity Zone program (S.6800-A/A.8081), which was created as part of President Donald Trump’s tax giveaway in 2017. The two bills are part of Senator Gianaris’ ongoing efforts to level the playing field between wealthy special interests and everyday New Yorkers.
“There is too much power and wealth concentrated in too few hands and they have abused our outdated laws for too long,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “Our antitrust laws were written a century ago for a radically different economy and they are in desperate need of reform. The Opportunity Zone program was intended to help economically distressed areas but is being abused to grant tax breaks to already overdeveloped neighborhoods.
About the 21st Century Antitrust Act
Under current state law, antitrust laws require two parties to conspire to manipulate the economy before enforcement actions can occur. In the current economy, however, major commercial players (particularly Big Tech) successfully manipulate the market unilaterally – by exerting dominance. Examples include manipulating search results to favor their own products and punish competitors as well as undercutting competitors’ prices at a loss to drive them out of business or pressure them to sell to the larger companies. Senator Gianaris’ legislation would allow the state to take action against these players and would create an “abuse of dominance” standard to empower regulators to bring enforcement actions more successfully.
Senator Gianaris joined the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and held New York’s first-ever hearing into corporate monopolies, hearing from representatives of Big Tech, as well as advocates and experts in antitrust policy in fall 2020.
About Reforming the Qualified Opportunity Zone program
The federal tax overhaul passed in 2017 included a provision aimed at incentivizing investment in economically distressed areas. In 2018, the state was supposed to designate census tracts that qualified as “Opportunity Zones” but also included other areas already suffering from overdevelopment and gentrification. Among these areas are wealthy parts of Long Island City and Astoria, among the fastest growing neighborhoods in the United States.
Investors who create opportunity funds to invest in these census tracts are able to defer large capital gains on their federal taxes. Much of New York’s tax code is linked to the federal tax code and Senator Gianaris’ legislation would prevent a massive and unjust giveaway of state resources to the wealthy. He previously passed legislation eliminating the immediate tax incentive, and this bill addresses long-term tax consequences of the program.
Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz said, “The balance of our economy is very off-kilter, and it is imperative that New York State take steps to ensure that regular people have the same opportunities for success and prosperity that were available decades ago. The 21st Century Anti-Trust Act would help support small and mid-size businesses compete against giant corporate behemoths who leverage their largesse to harm their competition, as well as workers and consumers. The Qualified Opportunity Zone program would ensure that our state is not giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to massive real estate developers. I am glad to see these two bills pass in the State Senate, and I will continue to work alongside State Senator Gianaris and my colleagues in the Assembly to get this done in our chamber too.”
Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN, leader of the New Yorkers for a Fair Economy coalition said, “We are seeing critical industries fall apart because of corporate concentration. The current shortage of formula is an example of how monopolized markets are directly hurting our families. It is unacceptable that we allow monopolies to continue to make record profits while lowering standards for workers and stifling competition for small businesses. The 21st Century Antitrust Act will give New York the tools to take back power and control of our economy. We applaud the New York State Senate for passing this bill today and urge the New York State Assembly and Governor Hochul to join the critical effort.”
Stuart Appelbaum, President RWDSU said, “New York’s existing antitrust laws are outdated and urgently in need of reform to properly protect workers and communities from the growing concentration of corporate power. You only have to look at Amazon and its impact on workers and communities to know that we have a crisis on our hands. Thankfully, New York is helping lead the way with the 21st Century Antitrust Act. I congratulate the New York State Senate and Senator Gianaris on passing this important bill, and call on the State Assembly to do the same so we can create a level playing field and to protect good union jobs before it is too late.”
Kyle Bragg, SEIU 32BJ President said, “We applaud the passage of the 21st Century Anti-Trust Act in the State Senate, and hope to see it move swiftly through the full legislature and signed into law. By addressing market abuses by large corporations; consumers, small businesses, and workers of all industries would benefit, especially low-wage workers. We are hopeful that concierge, security, custodial, maintenance, and other service workers, will be able to pursue better professional and financial opportunities as the abuse of non-compete and no-poach agreement is curtailed. We commend lead Senate sponsor, Deputy Majority Leader Gianaris on his efforts to support workers’ right to seek higher wages and benefits, and hold employers accountable when they impede them from doing so.”
Thomas Gesualdi, President, Teamsters Joint Council 16 said, “From high gas prices to declining wages in the logistics industry, we are seeing the impact of our weak antitrust laws. Corporations have grown so powerful that they control our supply chains and can dictate working conditions for entire industries. Workers need the 21st Century Antitrust Act to hold the Amazons of the world accountable and to protect the job standards we have established in New York. Thank you Deputy Majority Leader Gianaris for championing this legislation. Next we need the Assembly to take swift action to send this urgent legislation to the Governor.”
John Kaehny, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany said, “Reinvent Albany thanks Senator Mike Gianaris for tirelessly and effectively working to end state breaks connected to federal Opportunity Zones. We appreciate Senator Gianaris and the Senate looking out for New York taxpayers and stopping a potentially gigantic new state tax break for super-rich real estate investors.”
Pat Garofalo, Director of State and Local Policy at the American Economic Liberties Project said, “Reforming antitrust law and ending tax preferences for large corporations is critical for combatting corporate power and building an economy that’s fair for workers and local businesses. The 21st Century Antitrust Act provides vital new powers for enforcers, workers, and businesses to protect themselves from corporate abuses while S6800-A closes loopholes that dominant corporations abuse to get a leg up over smaller competitors. We commend Sen. Gianaris for his leadership in advancing these bills and call for the Assembly to swiftly pass them as well. Workers and local businesses have no more time to wait.”
Simone Martin, a UPS package car driver and member of Teamsters Local 804 said, “Workers need our elected officials to hold big corporations accountable for what they are doing to our jobs. Package delivery used to be a respected profession, but Amazon is tarnishing my job. Amazon cuts corners on safety and pays just a few dollars over minimum wage for what is supposed to be a middle-class job. I’m worried that if Amazon gets away with doing this work on the cheap, the union employers will either come down to their level or lose business. Thank you to Deputy Majority Leader Gianaris and the Senate—now we need the Assembly and the Governor to follow suit and protect workers.”
Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance applauded the Senate’s action saying, “The New York Senate’s passage of the 21st Century Antitrust Act is a win for New York’s small businesses, working people, and communities. For too long, dominant corporations have been allowed to corner markets and rig the game in their own favor. We urgently need to restore fair competition to ensure that communities across the state can thrive. With the passage of the 21st Century Antitrust Act, the Senate has taken the first important step toward doing that. We urge the Assembly to quickly follow suit.”
Rev. Prabhu Sigamani, Director, ROC-NY said, “The coronavirus pandemic has thrust restaurant businesses, most especially the small mom-and-pop restaurants, into uncertainty. Many of them have struggled to find the right direction amid shifting regulations and new innovations. On the other hand, because giant corporation-owned restaurants—most of them are food chains across the country—have larger resources, they dictate the labor market, putting restaurant workers and businesses in unfair economic conditions. Therefore, the antitrust bill is essential to promote fair market economics and healthy competition, and check the abuses that may arise.
Gwendolyn Allison, Member of New York Communities for Change said, “The rise of mega Corporate monopolies like Amazon across NY state have decimated our state, leading to shuttering small businesses, worse workplace conditions, price gouging and more. New York’s century old anti trust laws must be updated to take on today’s 21st century Monopolies to make our economy fair for every day New Yorkers and not the billionaires. We need New York to lead the nation and for the Assembly and Governor Hochul to follow the Senate’s lead and pass the 21st century Anti Trust Act.”
Beverley Brakeman, United Auto Workers Region 9A Director said, “The continued concentration of power by large corporations, which has directly contributed to rising income inequality and erosion of hard-fought worker protections, has gone unaddressed long enough. We thank Deputy Majority Leader Gianaris for his leadership and the Senate for passing the 21st Century Antitrust Act today. We urge the Assembly to immediately follow suit and deliver this bill to Governor Hochul so that she can sign it into law to protect not only workers, but all New Yorkers.”
Michael Gianaris represents New York’s 12th State Senate district and serves as Deputy Majority Leader.