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Tax Proposal to Help Fund Religious Schools Has High-Profile Backers

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It's received much less attention than the Mayor's tax plan to fund pre-K, but a tax proposal that would help fund religious schools may actually have more support in Albany, and the campaign is backed by supporters with both big names and deep pockets. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan says he won't take sides when it comes to funding universal pre-k.

"All I'm grateful for is that we've got leaders, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo, who are passionate about this," he said. "How it's going to be done, how it's going to be funded, I leave it up to them. "

He's more than willing, however, to endorse a different education-related tax proposal moving through Albany.

The proposed legislation would let New Yorkers give up to 75 percent of what they owe in state income taxes to a school or education organization instead. Called Education Tax Credits, it would channel hundreds of millions to private and religious schools and cost the state about $300 million a year.

The state Senate already passed the bill twice, and most Assembly members have signed on. What about Cuomo and de Blasio?

Dolan: Both Governor Cuomo and the mayor have expressed high interest in, and seems a no-brainer to us," Dolan said. "The mayor and I spoke about it about a month ago when we met. I know you didn't commit yourself, but you expressed very high interest in it, and I was grateful for that, so I don't know if there are any developments?
de Blasio: I want you to know that the Cardinal has perfectly found the right field for his life, the right vocation, but he could have been a great lawyer, too. So exactly correct. We met about this. We've talked about it. I am open to the discussion. I have not taken a formal stance.

The cardinal isn't the only powerful person pushing the legislation. Several of the wealthiest New Yorkers with close ties to Jewish and Catholic schools are bankrolling the effort.

Disclosure documents show that they've spent close to $1.7 million over the past two years on lobbying, and through a political action committee called the Educational Fund, they've given at least $270,000 to more than 100 state legislators and a dozen political organizations. Big winners include state Senators Martin Golden of Brooklyn, Diane Savino, whose district covers parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, and Jeff Klein, whose district includes part of the Bronx.

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