Friday, March 6, 2015

2015 Legislative Session is (finally) in Full-Swing

Although the Legislature has been in session since January, it feels as though the work of the 2015 Legislative session has only recently started. A series of snowstorms coinciding with session days, combined with the surprising change in the Assembly leadership, resulted in what felt like an awfully slow (and scandalous!) start to this Legislative session.

With the dust from the Assembly leadership shift finally starting to settle and session now in full-swing, the League has begun its advocacy work around a variety of issues. For a list of our legislative priorities this year, check out our 2015 Legislative Agenda. February afforded us the opportunity to testify at two joint legislative public hearings – education and public protections. On February 3rd, Marian Bott, LWVNYS Education Finance Issue Specialist, presented testimony to the Joint Fiscal Committees and Assembly and Senate Education Committees, voicing our strong opposition to the Education Investment Tax Credit. To read her testimony, click here. On February 26th, I presented testimony to the Joint Fiscal Committees at the Public Protection Hearing, highlighting our position on Election Law reform items and reiterating the League’s positions on Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform. To read my testimony, click here.

At this hearing, I also emphasized the League’s opposition to injecting non-fiscal policies into the State budget process to this extreme, which very much seems to be the Governor’s MO this session. To be sure, our conversations with numerous Legislators and advocates have indicated that the League is not alone in our deep disappointment that the Governor has leveraged the budget process in such a politicized manner. Alas, much of our advocacy efforts this March will involve working to separate some of the good policies that have been, regrettably, tethered to bad policies. And, we will be encouraging Legislators to do the same.

As some of you may already know, the League is vehemently opposed to the Education Investment Tax Credit (ETC), which has been linked in the budget to the Dream Act and to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).  Not only does the League believe that each of these policies should be considered on their own merits, the League also believes that public dollars should go to public education. We, therefore, oppose the ETC bill, which proposes a tax credit – not to be confused with a tax deduction, which represents a much smaller loss of revenue to the state than do tax credits – that will function to divert public dollars to private and parochial schools and siphon $100 or $150 million from the general fund. These are dollars that could (and should!) otherwise be directed toward addressing educational disparities in our public schools, especially given that the State has yet to fulfill the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit’s aim to provide students in low-wealth districts with the sound and basic education they are entitled to.  To read our memo in opposition to the ETC bill, click here. For additional background, check out the Policy Brief issued by Fiscal Policy Institute.  The League, in partnership with other civic groups, parent organizations, public education advocates and Legislators, will be participating in a press conference on Monday, March 9that 11:30am. 

Stay tuned for more updates – we’ve only just begun!  

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