State Budget Proposals Include Plans to Ease Middle Class Public College Tuition Burden; Assembly Majority Proposes Progressive Tax Structure to Address Income Inequality and Ensure Funding for Critical Services
In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his proposed budget for the 2017-18 Fiscal Year. The $152 billion proposal includes a plan to increase state aid to SUNY and CUNY full-time student whose family earns less than $125,000 per year; a proposal to expand the child care tax credit; $2 billion over the next five years to improve local water systems; $1 billion in new spending on public schools (but far less than what is needed); and funding for the first phase of a new nature trail stretching across the state.
The Governor proposed continuing the state in-come tax higher rate on those earning more than $300,000 annually, with individuals earning more than $1 million or couples earning more than $2 million continuing to be subject to an 8.82% State tax rate. These rates on higher earners, which were first set in 2009, provide about $4 billion to State revenues every year. Unless they are extended, they will expire in December. The Assembly Majority is proposing higher taxes on those in even higher income brackets, which I support.
The Governor also proposed ending the State's practice of prosecuting and imprisoning non-violent 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, a move to "raise the age" that I have long supported.
In an effort to continue putting New York families first and fund important priorities, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the Assembly majority are introducing our own progressive tax proposal to include new tax brackets for New York's highest earners to address income inequality and ensure funding for critical services. The Assembly plan - which would not increase State income tax rates for anyone earning less than $1 million a year - follows last year's actions to reduce inequality in New York by cutting taxes for middle-income New Yorkers and raising the minimum wage.
When the tax code expires after 2017, all taxpayers earning over $300,000 would be taxed at a rate of 6.85 percent. The Assembly's progressive tax plan maintains the current rate structure for those earning below $1 million, and reestablishes the higher surcharge on millionaires and multi-millionaires. It includes the following brackets:
|$1 million - $5 million||8.82%|
|$5 million - $10 million||9.32%|
|$10 million - $100 million||9.82%|
|Over $100 million||10.32%|
This proposal fiscally complements New York's Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget, which included a gradual reduction in personal income taxes for middle class earners. When fully phased in, the tax cuts will benefit an estimated six million New Yorkers.
Under the new tax structure proposed by the Assembly, the State would generate $5.6 billion more in additional revenue than under the current tax law, and would affect an estimated 66,134 taxpayers. The new rates would take effect after the tax year ends in 2017.
Community Workshops on Keeping 14th Street Moving During the "L" Train Shutdown
Starting in 2019, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will be rebuilding the L sub-way line tunnel, which was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The project will take at least 18 months, during which subway service will be suspended on the L line.
With the L line providing a crucial means of transportation along the 14th Street corridor in Manhattan, communities and riders are bracing for traffic tie-ups and limited crosstown mass transit options.
Along with other elected officials, the MTA and the NYC Dept. of Transportation (DOT), I am co-hosting a community workshop in Manhattan on ways to keep 14th Street moving during the shut-down and to discuss ways to protect residents, riders, and local businesses on Thursday, February 23 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 328 W. 14th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues).
Resistance: Fighting Back Against Washington
We don't know the full extent of what President Trump and Congress will be doing, it's clear that New Yorkers face many stiff and frightening challenges. They are intent on trampling on our fundamental values and the Constitution and wrecking vital programs and protections.
I strongly oppose the President's proposals to roll back the Affordable Care Act; stop issuing visas to travelers from several countries; impose a 20% tax on products imported from Mexico; curtail women's re-productive freedom and block funding for women's health providers like Planned Parenthood; among so many other plans. His nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court opposes reproductive rights, worker protections, and host of other important principles.
We must all work together to fight against these ill-conceived and mean-spirited policy proposals. As a strong and vocal community, we will be organizing, marching, and demonstrating against them.
Assembly Passes Reproductive Health Act
On January 17, the Assembly overwhelmingly passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which was reported earlier that day by the Health Committee, which I chair. The RHA (A. 1748), introduced by Assembly Member Deborah Glick guarantees a woman's right to choose; ensures constitutionally protected access to safe, legal abortion; and eliminates outdated language in New York State law. It takes New York's abortion law out of the Penal Law and puts it in the Public Health Law where it belongs.
The U.S. Supreme Court will very likely soon have a majority of judges who oppose protecting reproductive choice. This, and the Majority control of Congress and the White House, makes it more important than ever for New York to pass the Reproductive Health Act.
As chair of the Assembly Health Committee, a founding member of the New York State Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus, and someone who has been active with NARAL since 1969, protecting and strengthening reproductive rights and access to care are among my highest priorities. New York's own landmark law on abortion - enacted three years before the Roe v. Wade decision - provides most, but not all, the protections of Roe.
Deadline to Apply for Community Board Membership is Friday, Feb. 10
The Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer is accepting applications from New Yorkers interested in serving on one of Manhattan's 12 Community Boards through Friday, February 10. New Yorkers living, working, or studying in the borough of Manhattan are eligible to submit an application.
Community boards are local representative bodies that play an important role in City government. Each Board consists of up to 50 unsalaried members, half of whom are nominated by their district's City Council members. Board members are selected and appointed by the Borough Presidents from among active, involved people of each community and must reside, work, or have some other significant interest in the community.
Community boards have a variety of responsibilities, including dealing with land use and zoning issues; assessing the needs of their own neighborhoods; and addressing quality-of-life and other community concerns. Community boards play an important role in improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers.
If you're interested in applying to serve on a Manhattan community board, you can complete an application online at http://manhattanbp.nyc.gov/CBapply.
Take Advantage of Tax Credits Before Filing Your Return
Federal, State, and City governments offer several tax credits that can help lower your taxes or increase the size of your return. If a tax credit is called "refundable," it means the government will send you a check if you didn't owe any tax or if the credit goes beyond what you would owe.
Here are some tax credits that can save New Yorkers money:
the Empire State Child Credit, a refundable tax credit worth up to $330 per child for ages 4-16;
the Child and Dependent Care Credit, a tax credit based on a sliding income scale for working parents who pay for child care or those who live with a spouse or dependent who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care;
the federal Child Tax Credit, a non-refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 per child under the age of 17, or the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit; and
the Real Property Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit worth up to $375 if at least one member of your household is 65 or older, or up to $75 if all members of your household are under 65.
New York City residents are also eligible for the New York City School Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit of up to $125 for qualifying taxpayers. Further, city residents can receive a credit of up to $500 with the New York City Enhanced Real Property Tax Credit.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) helps workers earning a low or moderate income reduce their taxes and may result in a refund. To qualify for the New York State and federal EITC, you must:
have worked full or part time at some point during the calendar year;
be raising "qualified" children at home;
have income below $39,296 ($44,846 if married) with one child;
have income below $44,648 ($50,198 if married) with two children;
have income below $47,955 ($53,505 if married) with three or more children; or
be a worker between the ages of 25 and 65, earning less than $14,880 ($20,430 if married) with no children.
To be eligible for the New York City EITC, you must also be a full- or part-year resident of New York City, claim the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, and file a New York State income tax return (even if you do not owe any tax.)
Visit tax.ny.gov for more information.
Free tax preparation assistance is available through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA provides IRS-certified volunteers to help individuals and families with annual incomes of $54,000 or less, people with disabilities, the elderly, and those with limited English skills. For those 60 years of age and older, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program can also help, at no cost to you.
To find the nearest VITA or TCE site, visit irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers, or call 800-906-9887.
Joining a Community or Citywide Education Council
Are you a parent or guardian of a public school student in the New York City public school system? If so, you are needed!
The 32 Community Education Councils (CECs) in New York City are the parent advocacy groups for public elementary and middle schools in New York City. The CECs allow for parent involvement on the district level and play an essential role in shaping education policies for New York City public schools. CECs have a total of 12 members: nine parents of students in grades K-8, two members appointed by the Borough President, and one non-voting high school student.
The four Citywide Education Councils allow for parent involvement at the city level, advocating for specific populations. The four Citywide Councils are the Citywide Council on High Schools; the Citywide Council on Special Education; the Citywide Council on English Language Learners; and the Citywide Council for District 75, which provides citywide educational, vocational, and behavior support programs for students who are on the autism spectrum; have significant cognitive delays; are severely emotionally challenged; are sensory impaired; and/or are multiply disabled. Like the CECs, these councils have 12 members each (except for the Citywide Council on High Schools, which has 14), and they meet monthly.
As part of their responsibilities, CEC members:
Work with school principals and leadership teams;
Work with elected officials on school issues;
Work with the DOE to bring equity in education in their school districts;
Make a difference.
The election process is beginning this month, and interested candidates are encouraged to apply. Community and Citywide Education Council members are elected every two years. February 9, 2017 will mark the start of the next election to fill all 325 elected seats for the term that begins on July 1, 2017.
There will be informational sessions throughout the five boroughs for public school parents and guardians interested in serving on the CECs. Two are taking place in Manhattan, the first on Monday, February 13 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Tweed Courthouse Building, 52 Chambers Street (right behind City Hall); and on Wednesday, February 22 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street, 19th Floor South.
To learn more about Community Education Councils or Citywide Education Councils, or to submit an application, please go online to: http://nycparentleaders.org/.
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