Tax credit gives to some, takes from others

By Lorne Fultonberg

April 1, 2013 Updated Apr 2, 2013 at 12:58 AM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) A tax credit in the New York state budget would give many families a $350 rebate, but local legislators on both sides of the aisle say it's a poorly-targeted policy.

All families that have a child age 16 and younger and that make between $40,000 and $300,000 a year are eligible to receive the check.

"I think it's a good idea," said Ward Eldred, of Binghamton. "The people who work hard and are struggling ought to get a little bit of a break. If you use your money wisely, $350 is a lot. You can make it stretch."

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-123rd) says she wants to help the middle class, but that the means, in this case, don't justify the end.

"I have a problem with the amount of money that's involved with postage and handling and getting those out to people when it could, I think, be done more simply as an actual tax credit," she said.

Assemblyman Clifford Crouch (D-122nd) agrees, saying there are better ways to help families save money.

"It would have been much more efficient from a standpoint of the government to return money back (than) not charge it in the first place," he said. "You can cut the tax rate."

Crouch said the rebate goes too far, providing checks to people who make $250,000 to $300,000 a year.

Lupardo agrees, although she says it's important to note the standard of living is not consistent across New York state.

"If we had lowered the threshold from $300,000, we could have included more people in need, certainly in my district, seniors, people who have kids in college, singles for that matter," she said.

Rebates, paper and postage will total approximately $375 million, Lupardo said. That's money that could go to groups, like ACHIEVE, which will have their funding significantly reduced this year.

"The tax rebate is just one area where we we're told funds could be found to offset," said Mary Jo Thorn, CEO of ACHIEVE. "There were apparently other areas that were suggested, but not followed through on."

ACHIEVE faces a 4.5 percent budget reduction. Thorn says she doesn't know whether the organization will have to cut positions.

Nevertheless, Thorn says she understands the budgetary legislation is long and complex. All local legislators have told her they still support funding ACHIEVE, she said.

"I definitely see a commitment from them in knowing ACHIEVE and supporting our organization," she said. "What happens is that there are many aspects tied up in one bill and our 6 percent cut and restoration was tied up into a bill that had many other aspects to it."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the budget cannot meet all of the state's wants, but he feels it meets its needs. Every budget is a compromise, Lupardo said.

"All in all, it got done," she said. "It controls spending, and it gave money to people who need it. But there's always things you can do better."