From the Desk of … Sen. Brian X. Foley

State Sen. Brian  X. Foley was joined by education advocates to call on his fellow Long Island senators to join him in  supporting  an  override  of  Gov. Paterson’s  veto of funding for education.

Last  week,  the senate and the assembly approved a budget bill that  included  $600 million in restorations to education funding. Foley  and  Sen. Craig  Johnson  were the only Long Island Senators who voted  in  favor of returning this money to school districts and taxpayers. Paterson had proposed cutting $1.5 billion.  Based on the formulas used  to  calculate  aid to school districts, schools within the 3rd Senate District  were  to  receive  the  highest  restoration amount of any senate district  in  the state.  Paterson vetoed the funding within hours of its passage.

“Funding  for  our  schools  is  not  something we can allow to become  a  proverbial  political  football,”  said  Foley.   “Long Island’s   schools   already   receive   funding   at   a   level  that  is disproportionate  to  the percentage of students we have. When state aid is cut,  the  difference  must  ultimately  be  made up either by our property owners in the form of taxes or by our school children in the form of larger classes, fewer  resources and reduced programs for athletics and the arts. I  hope  that  my Long Island colleagues will join me in voting to override the  governor’s  veto  so  that  our  children  can continue to receive the highest  level  of  educational  opportunity we can provide without schools needing  to  raise  taxes  to a level that will drive residents off of Long Island.”

The  funding  that was restored could be used districts to help offset  the property tax levies that were included in the budgets passed by residents  in  May.   The  original bill passed the senate without a single vote from the Republican minority.

“Even  though all of my Republican colleagues voted no on these restorations  the  first  time  we  considered them, thereby depriving school districts  of  funds  that could be used to reduce property taxes, they now have  a  chance to correct the mistake of their earlier vote,” said Foley.   “I  strongly  implore  them to stop saying no to our taxpayers and children, and start saying no to their leadership by standing up for Long Islanders.”

 “The  legislature  has  supported  restoration  of  school  aid statewide  totaling  $600  million, including approximately $65 million for Long Island school districts,” said Lisa Tyson, Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.  “For the state’s neediest districts like Brentwood, Wyandanch,  Central  Islip, William Floyd and Westbury these funds would be available to restore cuts to the classroom.  Governor Paterson vetoed these restorations  to our classrooms.  We have seen gains in student outcomes in needy districts on LI and across the state as a result of the state finally beginning to provide adequate funding to these needy school districts.  The Governor’s  veto  is  a  major  step  backwards  and  both  houses  of  the legislature  should  vote  to  override  it.  Long Island’s legislators, no matter  what party, need to stand together against Governor Paterson’s veto that is so destructive to our local schools.”

The leadership in the senate has indicated that they would only call  an  override  vote  if  it  was certain that there were the necessary number  of  votes available.  The support of Long Island’s senators for the override is crucial.

LIPC Protests Gov. Paterson's budget cuts


Wyandanch calls proposed state aid cuts devastating

January 20, 2010

Students and staffers in the beleaguered Wyandanch school district rallied Wednesday morning against proposed cuts in state aid, warning they would force their system to lay off teachers and eliminate Advanced Placement courses, sports teams and bus rides.

“It looks like it’s going to be devastating,” said Denise Gibbs, an assistant superintendent in the 2,000-student system. She appeared along with two dozen others at a rally and news conference organized to protest Gov. David A. Paterson’s proposed school-aid reductions.

Unlike many school districts, Wyandanch has little in the way of “rainy day” funds to hedge against losses of state aid. That’s because the district ran up a budget deficit last year, and was forced to lay off workers simply to plug the fiscal hole.

Wednesday, Paterson called for $1.1 billion in school-aid reductions statewide, including about $1 million in Wyandanch. The governor contends such cuts are essential to help the state eliminate its own deficit projected at $7.4 billion.
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School aid cuts may affect at-risk LI schools

News 12
(01/20/10) WYANDANCH – Gov. David Paterson’s budget proposal includes a cut to school aid, which may hit some of Long Island’s already underfunded schools hard.

The Long Island Progressive Coalition criticized the proposal, insisting the cuts will negatively impact children’s education. Denise Gibbs, the assistant superintendent at Wyandanch schools, says the district was already forced to cut its reading program, security and custodial workers last year.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-Northport) says he wants to make sure the school cuts are evenly spread throughout the state.

The State Legislature must first vote on the budget before cuts go into effect.

LIPC Board Member's Op-Ed About NYS Budget

LIPC Board Member David Sprintzen had an Op-Ed published in the Friday, April 3rd edition of Newsday.

Here is the article:

Budget’s a reasonable compromise in tough times


David A. Sprintzen is an emeritus philosophy professor at C.W. Post and founder of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

We’ve heard much bemoaning the state’s effort to close a record $16-billion budget deficit, as each special interest complains about its impact on them.

Business leaders attack the increased tax on the wealthy and predict job losses and capital flight. Politicians and the press criticize both tax increases and cuts in service. But few offer detailed alternatives to maintain basic services, cushion the economic downturn, and close the state deficit, itself the result of the Wall Street crash and the national recession.

Yes, this budget is far from perfect, but it does a reasonable job of “sharing the pain,” as the governor says, at minimal cost to the Long Island economy. It balances cuts to vital services with modest tax increases.

The budget cuts more than $5 billion in state spending. While, due to the federal stimulus, schools on Long Island won’t be seeing the cuts next year they had recently feared, they also won’t be getting increases they once had planned on – particularly some struggling districts. There are also cuts in health care.

In fact, with the help of the federal stimulus money, this week’s deal increases spending paid for by state taxpayers by just 1 percent – well below the rate of inflation.

At the same time, the budget also recognizes that significantly slashing essential services like health care, education, and aid for seniors and the disabled will do more harm than good during a deep economic downturn. Many hardworking New Yorkers who never needed help during the boom years are now finding themselves forced to seek assistance for the first time.

The agencies and organizations serving them will still have to do more with less – but this budget averts the most drastic cutbacks by asking those who are still financially comfortable to pay their fair share.

For years, New York’s economic elite has been allowed to skate along, paying the same marginal income tax rate as individuals earning just $40,000 per year. These incredible tax breaks were pushed through by Gov. George Pataki when Wall Street was raking in billions. Now that the financial industry has led our nation’s economy off a cliff, it’s time for the wealthier New Yorkers to be responsible again.

This budget simply restores a small amount of progressivity to New York’s income tax by adding new brackets for the wealthiest 3.5 percent of the state’s population. While that percentage will be somewhat higher on Long Island, still, the majority of families here won’t be affected.

This measure acknowledges that someone earning $300,000 or $500,000 per year should pay a slightly higher marginal tax than middle and working class families. That higher rate only applies to net income in excess of $300,000 (or $200,000 for single-filers). Who among us – the other 90-plus percent of the population on Long Island – would not gladly pay that additional amount if we could earn more than $300,000?

Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics, recently explained that such an increase in the tax on the wealthiest is the least damaging way to balance state budgets during recessions.

In contrast, cuts in government spending on goods and services that are produced locally (like education and health care) and cuts in transfer payments to lower-income families, are most damaging to the economy, since they come closest to taking dollar for dollar out of the local economy.

If working-class New Yorkers can afford more crowded classrooms, longer waits at emergency rooms and extra nuisance fees, surely our richest residents can afford this income tax increase of just 1 or 2 percentage points. Our highest tax rate will be comparable to that of neighboring New Jersey, and even opponents of this tax measure concede that few of our wealthy citizens will actually leave.

As with any good compromise, this budget doesn’t make anyone completely happy. Poor school districts are harmed and too many hospitals will have to strain to give their patients the care they need.

But this deal stands on a strong foundation of shared sacrifice. It’s a reasonable compromise in extremely difficult circumstances accomplished by Gov. David A. Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. It asks all New Yorkers to give up a little so that none will have to lose too much.
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Long Island Residents Rally for Fair Share Tax Reform

Hundreds of community members and local leaders gathered in Melville on Friday, March 6th with handmade signs to urge Governor Paterson to meet New York’s budget shortfall by raising state income taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers instead of slashing health care, education and other vital services.

The Governor has proposed to close a record state budget deficit by making more than $9 billion in devastating cuts to institutions and services that working families depend on – schools and colleges, hospitals and nursing homes, and organizations serving the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Citizens across the state are pushing bank by calling for Fair Share Tax Reform, a plan to raise $6 billion to offset the deepest cuts by adding more progressive state income tax brackets for individuals earning $250,000 per year or more.

At the rally, Wilkens Young of Patchogue highlighted the impact of the Governor’s cut on one particularly vulnerable group, homeless veterans. “Programs that provide housing for homeless veterans and other displaced people could see a 25% cut under this budget,” Smith said. “The Governor is asking these men and women who have given so much to sacrifice even more so that the well-off don’t have to sacrifice at all. Those just aren’t the right priorities.”

Amparo Sadler, a Central Islip education advocate with the Long Island Progressive Coalition, spoke about the impact the cuts would have on working families and students. “The budget cuts would have a drastic impact on the quality of education in our local schools and weaken so many other organizations and services in our community. The Governor is asking everyone to sacrifice, except the New Yorkers who can most afford it. We’re rallying on Long Island to remind Governor Paterson that shared sacrifice means everyone.”

“As everyone here today knows, we are facing very challenging financial times,” said Suffolk County Legislator DuWayne Gregory, who represents the 15th Legislative District. “We can no longer afford the income tax cuts that have allowed the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay the same rate as a nurse or librarian who makes $20,000 a year. If we’re going to preserve health care and education for our most vulnerable and the next generation, we need Fair Share Tax Reform now.”

Today’s rally is one of many across the state highlighting the local human impact of the Governor’s proposed cuts and advocating Fair Share Tax Reform as a way to alleviate the worst of the cutbacks, while achieving truly shared sacrifice.
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