Cuomo to Include Tuition Tax Credit in Budget

Aid to parochial-school parents has been promised by Albany officials for each of the past three years. But a development Tuesday gives advocates hope that the coming year will finally herald the most far-reaching aid to New York tuition payers in history.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will reportedly include the Education Investment Tax Credit in his upcoming executive budget proposal, unattached to a bill funding college education for illegal immigrants.

This is according to Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who told Hamodia that a top Cuomo aide informed him of it on Tuesday afternoon. This is significant, since the governor’s connecting the tuition bill to the Dream Act earlier this year forced Senate Republicans to vote against it.

Details are still sketchy, and it is unknown what form the tax credit will take. Will it contain strictly a credit for donors to a scholarship fund, as the Senate wants? Will it grant money directly back to parents whether they pay taxes or not, as some in the Assembly called for? Will it be some combination of the two?

At a meeting in his home several weeks ago with advocates of the tuition aid bill, Hikind said the discussion turned to how 2016 will be different from the current year.

“Everybody agreed that the first thing before anything else is for the governor to put it into his budget without attaching it to the Dream Act, without connecting it to anything else, which last year became a very big problem,” the longtime Brooklyn Democrat said. “So I was told point-blank that that is exactly what is happening.”

The governor’s office did not confirm or deny the veracity of what Hikind said, merely stating that Cuomo will unveil his budget next month.

“The governor will present his budget proposals and State of the State in a joint address on January 13th,” Dani Lever, the governor’s spokeswoman, told Hamodia in an email.

The governor’s office did not respond to email requests for confirmation.

Legislation for the tax credit, or EITC, has been sponsored by state Sen. Simcha Felder in the Republican Senate for the past three years. While that chamber passed the bills all three times, the bill was held up in the Democratic Assembly.

Cuomo has had a mixed record on the bill. In his budget proposal last year, he attached it to the Dream Act and called on the legislature to pass both bills. That, the logic went, would give the Senate the education tax credit they wanted and give the Assembly an aid bill for illegal immigrants.

But advocates of the bill, led by Felder, complained loudly that this was a poison pill meant to kill both bills. Republicans had just gained seats in the state Senate based on their opposition to the Dream Act, and there was no path for them to vote for it.

The budget passed in March, with Cuomo promising to introduce a different version before the year’s session ended in June. With weeks to go, he sprung a hybrid bill that combined portions of the education tax credit for private-school donors with an earned income tax credit for private-school parents.

A frenzied lobbying campaign by Agudath Israel of America, the Catholic Conference of New York and other groups failed to get it across the Assembly’s finish line.

This year, some advocates have played dispirited notes about chances to pass the community’s most pressing priority. Cuomo’s inclusion of the EITC in the budget, Hikind says, will infuse new life into the campaign.

“Starting off on the right foot with the governor’s action,” he said, “will give us a big boost.”