Cuomo’s Education Tax Credit Plan Differs From Senate Bill

ALBANY -

The version of the Education Investment Tax Credit that Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in his executive budget proposal differs significantly from the legislation that the State Senate approved this year and in past years, that chamber’s GOP majority conference noted in an analysis.

Cuomo’s proposal is more restrictive than the legislation, which is designed to incentivize donations to private school scholarship funds as well as public schools. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Martin Golden, a Republican, and Simcha Felder, a Democrat, and has been promoted chiefly by the Catholic Church.

The Senate bill allows donors a credit of up to 90 percent of their contributions, not to exceed $1 million per participant. The overall limit for the tax credit would be $150 million in 2016, with a cap that would increase to $225 million in 2017 and $300 million in 2018.

Conversely, Cuomo’s proposal would allow donors to receive a credit equal to 75 percent of their contributions. While the individual cap in the governor’s proposal would be $1 million, consistent with the legislation, the overall limit would be $100 million initially and not scheduled to increase.

The Senate bill would require taxpayers to apply for the credit between Jan. 1 and 31, while Cuomo’s plan would close the application window on Jan. 15.

While traditional public schools and charter schools are able to benefit from the donations under Golden and Felder’s bill, Cuomo’s version removes charter schools’ eligibility.

Also, Cuomo’s proposal puts a greater emphasis on financial need when determining students’ eligibility for the private school scholarships.

Under the Senate legislation, a student in a household with an adjusted gross income of $500,000 would be eligible, and that income limit would increase by $10,000 per additional child, not to exceed $550,000.

Cuomo’s plan would lower the eligibility limit to $250,000, with a maximum income of $300,000 in the case of additional dependents. Also, at least 50 percent of scholarship recipients would have to be students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

The Senate bill also includes a $200 tax credit for teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies. Cuomo’s proposal does not include that credit.

Bob Bellafiore, spokesman for InvestInEd, a coalition that supports the credit, addressed Cuomo’s changes in a statement on Friday: “We’ve always said this is an issue that both Democrats and Republicans agree on, even if some details differ. We’re sure this can be worked out as it has thousands of other times in the making of a state budget.”

As has been widely reported, Cuomo also made passage of the tax credit contingent on approval of a $27 million expenditure for the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants access to public tuition assistance. The governor hopes the deal would represent a compromise, appealing to Senate Republicans who have advocated for the tax credit as well as Assembly Democrats who have pushed the Dream Act.

Directly after Cuomo’s speech last week, leaders of both conferences said they were unwilling to accept the deal.

The Senate GOP’s report did not offer judgment on Cuomo’s proposal; it simply outlined the differences.

Reprinted with permission.