NY Senate Leader ‘Extremely Disappointed’ in Lack of Tuition Aid

NEW YORK -

The leader of New York’s Senate said he is very disappointed that a tax credit that would help private-school tuition payers was not included in last week’s budget deal.

Speaking to Hamodia on Wednesday, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Farmingdale Republican, said that the senator pressed his two partners in government, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, to include the Education Investment Tax Credit in the final budget, which was announced late last Thursday night. But the Assembly nixed it.

“Senator Flanagan is extremely disappointed that the tax credit was not included in the budget,” said Scott Reif, Flanagan’s spokesman. “We pushed for it at every turn.”

The Senate passed the tax credit legislation in March and for the first time Cuomo included it in his own budget blueprint in January. But the Assembly, as they’ve done for the past three years, bottled it up.

Reif said that the Senate is not giving up on the tuition aid proposal; their version would grant a 90-cents-on-the-dollar tax credit up to $1 million. The overall bill would be eventually capped at $300 million.

“It will certainly be a priority going forward,” he said.

However, there is little chance of the Assembly agreeing to it this year, especially as it is an election year when teachers’ unions dole out campaign dollars and manpower based on lawmakers’ voting records.

Additionally, while Cuomo included the tax credit in his budget, he gave an emphatic “no” when asked earlier this year if it were still on the table.

The incident, which took place at a closed press fundraiser in February and was repeated to Hamodia by two attendees, was likely due to Cuomo’s understanding that the Assembly would not agree to it, the attendees conjectured.

State Sen. Simcha Felder, who sponsored the legislation along with Sen. Marty Golden, said that while Cuomo included the tax credit in his budget, he did not show a commitment to getting it through the negotiating process with the Assembly.

“For anything to have a chance of becoming a reality you have to have at least two of the three bargaining partners committed — committed — to getting it passed,” Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with the GOP, told Hamodia. “The Republican majority in the Senate passed it in their budget. For the past three years, the Democratic governor and the Democratic Assembly have refused to do anything to get it through.”

“We’re not interested in lip service or in being treated like fools, we’re interested in action,” he added.

One incentive for the Senate to push for the tax credit is a special election in two weeks, in which the Republicans’ tenuous majority may be at stake.

In the election on Long island to replace ex-Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, both Democrat Todd Kaminsky and Republican Chris McGrath are battling for the Orthodox community’s support. Among the communities in the district are South Shore, Long Beach and the Five Towns.

“The education tax credit is a huge issue during this campaign,” one person closely involved in the race told Hamodia.

Kaminsky, in his successful run two years ago for Assembly, did not back the tax credit but last year said he changed his mind and would support its inclusion in the budget. McGrath, on whose behalf Flanagan says he will campaign in the Jewish community, says that only a Republican majority will get the tuition aid through Albany.

The April 19 election is pivotal for Republicans who hope to keep their narrow 32-member majority in the 63-member body.

“If the EITC becomes law,” Reif said, “it will be because the Senate Republicans have pushed and pushed for it until it goes through.”