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Lawmakers debate education funding and tax policy amid budget negotiations

At the New York State Capitol, lawmakers and advocates are actively discussing several significant education and tax policy proposals. This includes a push for universal free school lunches, new restrictions on tax breaks by Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs), and Governor Kathy Hochul’s allocation of $100 million to 50 school districts and BOCES to address pandemic learning loss. These discussions are set against the backdrop of concerns over Governor Hochul’s proposal to end the “Save Harmless” policy, which guarantees that districts don’t receive less Foundation Aid funding than the previous year.

State Sen. Sean Ryan and Assemblymember Harry Bronson are advocating a bill to prevent IDAs from granting tax credits that reduce education funding. John Kaehny from Reinvent Albany supports this move, highlighting the long-standing issue of local taxes being diverted from education. Despite reaching out, Spectrum News 1 has not received comments from Empire State Development or local IDAs.

The education budget is a contentious issue, with Senate Republicans criticizing Governor Hochul’s plan to use state reserves for the migrant crisis instead of education. State Sen. Jim Tedisco emphasized the need to prioritize education funding. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins expressed the Legislature’s commitment to education, suggesting potential resistance to the Governor’s plan. Governor Hochul defended her budgeting decisions, pointing out significant increases in education funding since 2021 and suggesting the “Save Harmless” policy is a viable area for cutbacks, especially for schools with decreased enrollment and substantial reserves. However, her explanation has not alleviated Republican concerns in either chamber.