A SoP reader in Binghamton forwarded a copy of a mailer attacking Democratic Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo for approving a “sweet deal” to automatically raise the pay of state lawmakers but refusing to support the education investment tax credit that Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently repackaged as part of the Parental Choice in Education Act.

The mailer says Albany Assembly members make $80,000 (actually, the base pay is $79,500, plus extra for committee chairmanships and leadership positions – a stipend known at the Capitol as a “lulu”) for “part-time work,” and also make extra (per diems to cover travel and living expenses) just for showing up.

“Albany politicians need to get their priorities straight and focus on our families by passing the Education Tax Credit,” the mailer reads. “…Tell Assembly Member Lupardo, politicians don’t need our help, our schools do.”

There’s also another version of the mailer that urges recipients to join the governor in supporting the tax credit, which has been sent to constituents in Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan’s Queens district.

The mailers are being paid for by the Coalition for Opportunity in Education. The coalition – in partnership with Students First and Families for Excellent Schools – is also paying for a pair of pro-tax credit TV ads, one of which features Cuomo.

“There are a number of members who are not supporting this bill from areas where we know there is strong support within the district,” said coalition spokesman Bob Bellafiore, when asked who else is being targeted by this mail campaign. “…We’re not saying if it’s Senate, Assembly, but we are constantly evaluating whether and where more or less voter education is needed.”

State lawmakers didn’t actually vote to raise their own pay. Technically speaking, that would be illegal. There was, however, a legislative pay raise commission included in the budget deal struck by legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo this past spring.

The commission will be made up of seven members – three appointed by Cuomo, two by the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, and one each by the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader. It will be charged with setting the salaries of judges, statewide elected officials and some top executive branch staffers. It will make its first recommendations just after the November 2016 elections, and unless the Legislature specifically votes to reject its proposal, the salary increases will take effect in January 2017.

This cycle will be repeated every four years, which means the “what should we trade for it” pre-election pay raise trade dance between the Legislature and the governor will come to an end.

Cuomo has made his Parental Choice in Education Act an end-of-session priority. He tried unsuccessfully to link the tax credit with the DREAM Act in his executive budget, but neither issue made it into the final spending deal.

The Senate Republicans are conceptually supportive of the tax credit, and have already passed a version – though it differs from what the governor is pushing.

The trouble is in the Assembly Democratic conference (hence, the mailers), where Speaker Carl Heastie – who used to be a co-sponsor of tax credit legislation until he ascended to his leadership post and took his name off all bills – has said there isn’t sufficient support among his members to pass it.

NYSUT is vehemently opposed to the tax credit, and recently launched a 10-day radio ad campaign against it.

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