Assemblyman Skoufis: Assembly budget proposal invests in education, small businesses

SKOUFIS PRESS RELEASE– Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) announced that he helped negotiate and pass the Assembly’s 2017-18 state budget proposal, which includes tax relief for the middle-class, an extension of the millionaire’s tax, an increase in K-12 and higher education aid, support for seniors, and reforms to economic development.

Supporting our schools

The Assembly proposal allocates a total of $26.3 billion in education funding, an increase of $1.8 billion from last year and $887 million more than the executive proposal. It also rejects the executive proposal’s repeal of the Foundation Aid formula and increases this aid by $1.4 billion for the 2017-18 school year. The formula, which the Assembly proposal updates to ensure equity, is crucial to ensuring all school districts receive the funding they deserve, noted Skoufis.

In order to make full-day kindergarten a reality throughout the state, the Assembly’s plan provides targeted financial assistance for five years for districts that have yet to transition to a full-day program such as the North Rockland and Washingtonville school districts.

Creating a fairer tax system

To help pay for a sizeable investment in education and infrastructure improvements, the Assembly plan extends and expands the state millionaire’s tax. This new tax structure would generate $7 billion more than the executive’s proposal over four years and affect a little over 66,000 taxpayers making over $5 million annually. It also gives tax cuts to middle-class families by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 35 percent of the federal credit and enhancing the Child and Dependent Care Credit for taxpayers earning between $50,000 and $150,000.

“This new tax code simply asks the wealthiest New Yorkers to contribute their fair share, allowing us to lower taxes for the majority of taxpayers and provide funding for education, infrastructure and other crucial programs,” said Skoufis.

Making college more affordable

The Assembly’s budget proposal increases the maximum Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) award to $5,500 per year and raises it over four years to a maximum award of $6,500 per year. The Assembly budget also improves the Governor’s flawed Excelsior Scholarship program to provide free college tuition to more middle-class families. It expands eligibility by raising the maximum income level to $150,000, better accommodates special needs students, permits 1/3 of a student’s Pell award to be applied to non-tuition expenses, and allows students to take 12 credits for two semesters as opposed to the Governor’s proposed requirement of 15 credits per semester. Additionally, assistance will be provided to recent graduates who have finished college with student debt.

“The Assembly’s proposed budget on higher education – while not perfect – is a large step in the right direction and a huge improvement over the Governor’s plan,” said Skoufis. “For too many families, a college degree is simply out of reach. This proposal that I helped negotiate will result in over 70% of SUNY and CUNY undergraduates having their full tuition costs covered, making college a reality for so many New York students and families who were previously deterred from a higher education.”

Cutting taxes for small businesses

The Assembly budget proposal lowers taxes for small and family-owned businesses, making it easier and more profitable to do business in New York State. The plan would reduce the income tax rate for small businesses with an income of $290,000 or less from 6.5 percent to 4 percent for corporate tax filers. Personal income tax filers would be able to deduct 15 percent of their income from their adjusted gross income (AGI) before the personal income tax rate is applied. This would provide relief to over 1 million businesses.

Supporting seniors

In order to help seniors meet rising health care and housing costs, the Assembly plan provides $2 million for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) and Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NNORCs), which help seniors stay in their homes and decrease the need for unnecessary hospital and nursing-home care.[1] The proposal also restores $10 million to preserve the right of spousal refusal, a program Skoufis has long championed. This right ensures that elderly couples don’t lose their life savings because a spouse becomes ill and needs long-term care, he noted.

Fighting for more transparency

“Economic development in this state is backwards, ineffective, and costly,” said Skoufis. “I’ve long supported broad-based tax cuts, such as the relief provided to small businesses in our Assembly budget proposal, in lieu of the so-called system of economic development that has promoted corruption and favoritism for far too long.”

While there are some well-intentioned members who sit on the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs), these gameshow-like awards put newspaper headlines ahead of sound public policy. REDCs have given significant taxpayer-funded grants to the corporations owned by the very members who sit on the REDCs themselves. The award process itself is shrouded in secrecy with no public votes and many grants are funneled to political allies of the Governor such as the Village of Kiryas Joel.

Skoufis expressed optimism that the Assembly’s budget proposal completely zeroes-out the Governor’s REDCs funding. He believes we should take a step further and also eliminate the failed START-UP NY program that has spent more money on television ads than has reaped in tangible economic development.

[1] aging.ny.gov/NYSOFA/Programs/CommunityBased/NORC-NNORC.cfm