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Assembly chair says now is not the right time for an education tax credit


The chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee says an education tax credit bill pressed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not appropriate for the state at this time.

Many Democrats in the Assembly oppose the measure, which would allow donors to give up to one million dollars to fund private school scholarships, and receive a credit of up to $750,000 on their taxes. The money could also go to public after school programs. Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan says the money for the tax credit, worth up to $160 million, could be better spent on funding poorly performing public schools.

“It’s not the right thing to move on an educational tax credit this year,” Nolan said. “There’s much more that would need to be discussed, and many, many questions that need to answered.”  

There’s been talk of a possible deal in which Democrats agreed to the education tax credit in exchange for Republicans voting to reform New York City’s rent law.  

Assemblywoman Nolan says she can’t rule out a scenario in which the tax credit becomes law.

“Nobody can ever rule out anything,” she said. “My recommendation clearly would be that we not include this complicated and, in my view, ill advised proposal.”

Other opponents, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, say if it is approved by the legislature, they will likely file a lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of the law. Corrine Carey is with the  New York Civil Liberties Union.

“We feel that we’ve got strong grounds to challenge a bill like this, should it ultimately pass,” Carey said.

In a memo opposing the bill, the NYCLU says private schools are different from public schools because they can pick and choose students, and reject those who are poorly performing or have behavioral issues, and so should not receive public tax dollars.

But James Cultrara, with the New York State Catholic Conference disagrees that the education tax credit is unconstitutional. He says several other states have similar laws that have been found to be valid.

“Not only would I disagree, but the U.S. Supreme Court, multiple state courts, clearly disagree,” said Cultrara, who said 16 other states have programs similar to the one Cuomo is proposing.

Cultrara says he sees increased momentum for the bill.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.