School Aid Plan To Take a Hit

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Governor and legislature last year was passing a multi-year funding plan for public education. Over five years, the plan would meet the demands of the CFE court decision, bringing equity in funding for high need school districts.  Governor Spitzer’s budget proposal for education is expected to show an increase over last year, but be below the curve of the plan — a 2%, rather than a 3%, increase.

…the proposed 2008-09 school aid package will grow by $900 million rather than the original $1.25 billion projection. Overall, Spitzer will propose $21 billion in school aid, compared with $19.5 billion this year, said Paul Francis, Spitzer’s operations director.

Translated in dollars, that’s quite a cut. Might we be seeing the beginning of a commitment morphing into “good intentions?”  And why is it that aid to those with the least is first to get squeezed?

Governor Spitzer promised “no new taxes” in face of a looming $4 billion deficit. Yet, if New York raised its income tax rates on top earners, from 6.85% to New Jersey’s 8.97%, the deficit problem would pretty much be solved. Before tax cut fever hit New York State several decades ago, the top rate was 15%.

And no, I doubt that a modest readjustment of income tax rates would turn the Hamptons into ghost towns as affluent New Yorkers flee to states with lower income taxes, regardless of the naysayers’ latest theory.

However, the “NO TAXES!!” meme is so solidly entrenched in the public consciousness that a fruitcake of caps, privatizations, and fee increases is preferable to simple progressivity. And those with the least get the cuts.

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