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UFT: Extend the tax on millionaires

UFT President Michael Mulgrew urged state lawmakers on Feb. 14 in Albany to fully fund the foundation aid that New York City schools need — and to extend and enhance the millionaire’s tax to help pay for it.

At a state budget hearing on Feb. 14, Mulgrew praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo for proposing a $1 billion increase in education funding statewide, but he said that “our schools won’t receive enough funding to maintain the services they currently have” under the new formula for divvying up school aid that the governor proposed in his executive budget.

“Our advocacy this year will center around restoring and fully funding foundation aid as soon as possible to provide the predictability and the resources our students need to succeed,” he said.

With a potential $3.5 billion budget deficit looming for New York, Mulgrew emphasized the need to generate new revenue to ensure the state can meet its obligations to public school students. He praised the governor’s proposal for a three-year extension of the millionaire’s tax. That tax, which was established in 2009 in the aftermath of the recession, sets the state tax rate for households earning $2 million or individuals earning $1 million at the higher rate of 8.82 percent,

Mulgrew said the union also supports the Assembly’s proposal to create more income-tax tiers so the state’s wealthiest millionaires and billionaires pay even more.

“This tax on high-income earners is an effective and fair way to raise the revenue we need,” he testified. “We know that New York’s highest-income households have seen enormous gains in recent years, and we also know these top earners still pay a proportionately smaller share of state and local taxes.”

He also called on lawmakers to close the carried interest loophole that allows billionaire hedge-fund managers to pay a lower tax rate than teachers do on portions of their earnings. [See “Closing loophole could end state budget deficit.”]

Mulgrew appealed to state lawmakers to provide $40 million statewide for Teacher Centers. UFT Teacher Centers, he said, provide “ongoing, job-embedded professional learning” that educators need.

He urged state lawmakers not only to fund the creation of new community schools, but also to allocate the resources for current community schools and school-based health centers to thrive.

The UFT requested additional state aid for career and technical programs and for the Positive Learning Collaborative, a joint DOE–UFT program that trains educators in strategies to respond to and head off challenging student behavior. He also said the union supports preserving and increasing government-subsidized day care slots for working families,

Mulgrew urged state lawmakers to reject Gov. Cuomo’s proposals to increase charter funding, permit more charters to open in New York City and increase rent subsidies for charters. Instead, he said, the state Legislature should focus its attention on strengthening the accountability and transparency of charter school operators.

In light of the ascendance of forces hostile to public education in Washington, D.C., Mulgrew stressed to state lawmakers the importance of maintaining a united front in support of public schools in Albany.

“We must work together to ensure that the Trump/DeVos privatization agenda does not gain a foothold here in New York State,” he said.

Read the full testimony.

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