Governor Andrew Cuomo at last June's Pride Parade. | GAY CITY NEWS
Governor Andrew Cuomo has joined forces with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, to enact a “tax credit” bill that would transfer millions of state dollars to private and religious schools, many of them run by anti-gay religions that discriminate against LGBT employees. The measure has now been renamed the “Parental Choice in Education Act,” essentially a voucher program for these non-public schools that has been resisted by New York legislators for decades.
In the closing days of the legislative session, press reports say that Cuomo is trying to pressure the Assembly that has resisted the tax giveaway to accept it in exchange for something its Democratic leaders want — stronger rent laws. Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, has been quoted as unhappy about that pressure. Cuomo's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, told Capital New York, “We should not be leaving the fate of millions of families in rent-regulated apartments in limbo over a tax break for hedge fund billionaires to send their kids to lavish prep schools.”
Governor may exact tax credit plan from Assembly in return for stronger rent protections
A TV ad featuring Cuomo and Dolan urging New Yorkers to call their assemblymembers bills the tax credit as an aid to “low and middle income children.”
Veteran gay activist Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, said, “Andrew Cuomo is being demagogic again, this time aiding religious schools, many of which bully LGBT children by telling them that they are disordered sinners. There has to be a strong wall between church and state, but the governor is trying to tear it down. It is a disgrace.”
The Empire State Pride Agenda did not return repeated requests for their position on the tax transfer to these anti-gay schools. They are focused on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) that has long been blocked by the Republican-led Senate. That bill passed the Democrat-led Assembly again this past week “for the first time without vocal opposition,” according to ESPA’s communications director Michael Murphy, and with 14 Republican votes. The Pride Agenda is also trying to get the Senate to adopt a bill banning so-called “conversion therapy” for minors.
Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, a Chelsea Democrat, said of the tax credit bill that “there is very strong opposition in our conference and so far that seems to be prevailing.” He said that “siphoning off [tax] dollars to private schools seriously undermines the public schools… and the unity of our population.”
Gottfried recently joined out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Corey Johnson and others in getting arrested outside Cuomo’s Albany office to protest the governor’s tepid support for the rent laws. Cuomo reversed course and came out for strengthening the rent laws, but his price seems to be the Assembly giving in on the private school tax credit he wants.
Bruce Kogan, former president of the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York, wrote to the Buffalo News, “I do not want to see bigoted and homophobic institutions given taxpayer subsidies where vulnerable and questioning youth are at risk and will be spiritually and mentally violated. Not on my tax dollar.”
Assemblymember Sean M. Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat, responded to Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo on the issue by writing, “There are no protections in the legislation to ensure that funding is prohibited from going to schools which would teach our children racial prejudice, or promote religious intolerance or discrimination, or even the subjugation of women.”
Ryan also wrote that far from being a “modest program” as the bishop suggested, it “could cost New York taxpayers $150 million in the first year, and between $225 and $300 million in every subsequent year.”