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Tax code changes could mitigate against school budget cuts

It’s not the millionaire’s tax that some parents have pushed for, but it’s something.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that he would overhaul the state’s tax code to reduce the tax rate on middle-income earners and increase taxes on the highest earners. Cuomo estimates that the changes will add $2 billion a year to the state’s coffers — funds that can go to schools and other public services.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew was among the chorus of people who quickly signaled their support for the proposal. He called the plan “a wide-ranging solution to the state’s budget problems” and said it would “help ensure that children in our public schools will begin to see restorations from the devastating education cuts of recent years.”

But a separate tax on high earners known as the millionaire’s tax, which Cuomo has vowed not to renew when it expires at the end of the month, has generated significantly more, about $4 billion a year. That means the state is still facing a funding shortfall of as much as $1.5 billion, and schools are likely to feel continued budget pressure.

The advocacy group Alliance for Quality Education, which supported a lawsuit to bring additional state funding to city schools, said further tax changes are necessary to generate enough funds to cover schools’ needs.

“An essential measure of the effectiveness of this plan will be whether it allows the state to restore the damaging and inequitable cuts that were made to schools across the state,” AQE’s executive director, Billy Easton, said in a statement. “We must get back on track to meet our obligations to provide a quality education to all students — not only to some.”

Already, the city Department of Education is implementing a 2 percent midyear budget cut, and officials have been instructed to figure out how to shave another 6 percent off of next year’s budget. City officials blamed the scale of this year’s cuts on state and federal cutbacks. Last year, Cuomo proposed slashing $600 million from the city schools, which would have reversed all recent gains in state funding.

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