Cuomo Calls For Education Tax Credit, Links It to DREAM Act

NEW YORK (Hamodia Staff) -

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday in his State of the State address he will include $100 million in funding the Education Investment Tax Credit — an idea long championed by supporters of parochial and private school students — in his $141.6 billion state budget. Earlier in the day the state Senate had passed a different version of EITC and the same bill was introduced in the Assembly.

However, sources who have seen the budget confirmed to Hamodia that the governor plans to link the EITC to the passage of the DREAM Act, legislation that would enable undocumented immigrants to apply for state college tuition assistance.

While some advocates of the Education Tax credit also strongly support the DREAM Act, other, including leading Republicans who have throw their weight behind the Education Tax credit, are vehemently opposed to using taxpayer money to pay for the higher education of illegal immigrants.

“I am very disappointed,” State Senator Simcha Felder, a democrat who caucuses with Republicans and has led the battle for the passage of the Education Tax credit told Hamodia hours after the speech.

“Before the election the governor made a commitment to get the Education Tax credit done. Now he is making it conditional on the passage of the DREAM ACT. A commitment with conditions is not a commitment.

“Tuition-paying parents have suffered long enough, we deserve help without strings attached,” Felder added. “Baruch Hashem, the senate passed the bill and I know Senator Skelos, the Republican Majority Leader is determined to make this happen.”

As reported in our weekly edition, the bill would allow 90 percent of charitable donations for education to be written off as a dollar-for-dollar tax deduction. So, for example, a $500,000 donation to an “Educational Scholarship Organization” set up by an umbrella yeshivah group would reduce the donor’s tax bill by $450,000.

“The Education Investment Tax Credit would give new educational options to parents and help schools and students succeed. This measure will continue to be a priority of our conference during state budget negotiations.” Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said in statement after the passage of the Senate version of the bill.

Unlike the Governors proposal, which caps the credit at $100 million, the senate version caps it at $150 million for 2016, $225 million for 2017, and $300 million for 2018 and thereafter.

Agudath Israel of America also released a statement on EITC.

“There is no doubt that the high cost of tuition is at the top of the list of concerns of virtually every family in our community,” Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Community Affairs. “Our battle to help them has been unrelenting and we are thankfully seeing the fruits of our labor, with Hashem’s help.”

“While we still have to study the details of the Governor’s proposal,” said Rabbi Lefkowitz, “we are deeply grateful that he has seen fit, for the very first time, to publicly promote EITC as a high budgetary priority.”

OU Advocacy-Teach NYS, the non-partisan public policy arm of the Orthodox Union, applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for his public support of EITC, and the State Senate for passing EITC as a stand-alone bill earlier today.

“The top priority during the 2015 Legislative Session for OU Advocacy-Teach NYS is passing the EITC bill — which could provide an unprecedented amount of funding for New York’s non-public schools — and ensuring that the program benefits the broadest swath of New York’s schoolchildren,” it said in a statement.

Jake Adler, New York director of policy for OU Advocacy-Teach NYS, noted that the OU is grateful to the entire State Senate, particularly Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, for their unwavering support of the EITC bill. “With the passage of EITC by the Senate and inclusion in the Governor’s budget proposal, the EITC is closer to passing than ever before,” said Adler.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) released a statement calling the inclusion of education tax credits in his budget bill a win for New York State and his community in particular.

“For many years, offsetting the high cost of educating our children has remained highest on my list of priorities,” said Hikind. “As far back as 15 years ago, I began sponsoring bills to this effect and fighting hard for them knowing that persistence was the key to this battle. This past November, when Governor Cuomo visited our community, I made it clear that assistance with the exorbitant cost of education was our community’s greatest desire. We made our case loud and clear and the Governor heard us and promised his support.”

Hikind cautioned that Governor Cuomo’s support of education tax credits does not mean the battle is over. “Last legislative session, the New York State Senate, led by my colleagues Senators Simcha Felder and Marty Golden, passed the Education Investment Tax Credit act. Today’s commitment from our Governor is another very important step, but our work is far from done.”