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LI Dems seen as key by either side in education tax credit fight

Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) sits in the Assembly

Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) sits in the Assembly chamber on March 30, 2015. Credit: Albany Times Union / Will Waldron

ALBANY - ALBANY -- Seen as swing voters, some Long Island Democrats are being pressured by either side in a fight over a tax credit that would benefit private and religious schools. Adversaries fired off mailers to residents in eight lawmakers' districts this week, hoping to sway their support.

It is the latest media blitz in the debate about the tax credit proposal as state lawmakers move into the final month of the 2015 legislative session. The fight pits Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, alongside the Republican-led Senate and charter and parochial school supporters, against the Democrat-dominated Assembly, teachers unions and public school advocates. The tax credit would encourage donations to private schools.

Supporters say it would provide more school choices for parents. Opponents say it would siphon off taxpayer funding and benefit the wealthy.

The latest mailers -- paid for by the Coalition for Opportunity in Education, a pro-parochial school group -- criticizes several Long Island state Assembly members by citing their support of a pay-raise commission for lawmakers earlier this year and their lack of support for the education tax credit.

A sample ad notes the targeted politician "helped himself to a pay raise, but refuses to help our school children by supporting the education tax credit."

On Long Island, the group targeted Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights), Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), and Philip Ramos (D-Brentwood). The advocates also sent the mailers to what it considers key upstate districts.

Almost simultaneously, the New York State United Teachers is sending mailers to more than 40 Assembly districts, telling residents to urge their representative to oppose "Albany's New Tax Giveaway."

"Ask why she supports diverting money due our public schools and giving it to private schools and the governor's billionaire friends," reads one mailer.

On Long Island, NYSUT is targeting Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) and Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont).

Cuomo has touted the tax credit around the state, at times with the help of Cardinal Timothy Dolan. But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) has said the proposal lacks majority support in his chamber.


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